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Art, Life and Science in Belgium, Second Series 

Already published in this series: 


(out of print) 


by Marguerite Devigne (out of print) 


by Clementine Pacldleford (out of print) 


mar, him and current world problems, ii 

Negro Art in 
The Belgian Congo 

by Leon Kochnitzky 

C O N.G O 

4th revised edition 
Published for 

3, rue Montoyer Brussels, Belgium 

by the 

Belgian Government Information Center 

630 Fifth Avenue New York 20 

I 9 5 « 

Tht author. Leon Kochnitzky, studied in his 
native city, Brussels and in Utrecht, Doctor of 
Philosophy. University of Bologna, Italy, Received 
the Prix Francois Coppce from the Academic 
Franchise, 1919. Private secretary to Gabrielc 
d'Anmmzio i 1919-1920). Published seven vol- 
umes of poetry (a French translation of Shake- 
speare's Sonnets. Elegies Bruxclloiscs, c.a.,) . Editor 
of La Revue Muskate, Paris. Contributed regularly 
to the Osservatore Romano and to Les Nouoelles 
Llttereircs. Lectured at the Ecole Libre des Hautcs 
Etudes. New York. In charge of French section of 
Belgian program of OWI overseas branch from 
1942-1946. under the pennamc of Giraud dTJccle. 
In 1951, he made a six-month ttip to Belgian 
Congo and Portuguese Angola, visiting for several 
weeks the Bakuha. Bapende and Batshioko tribes. 
In 1954 he returned to the Congo and Angola. The 
«mt year, bis poems. Elegies Congotaises, inspired 
bv ! he way of life of both whites and blacks in 
Belgian Congo, were given an award by the Aca- 
demic Franchise. He spent most of the year 195 6 in 
Ccyloft, the Portuguese settlements in India and 
Pakistan. He is now established in Rome. 

^'v of i 


BAKUBA — -Raffia fibre cloth; Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVUREN. 


X JLn African work of art is almost isolated from its cultural 
background. It has to be considered and studied without the help 
of little-known African history. The social, economic and religious 
evolution of the Dark Continent throws little light on the real 
meaning of such work. The only part of human knowledge to 
which the art historian can have recourse for information is 
ethnology. This is the chief reason why the study of African art 
has, for a whole century, been so strongly linked to this science. 

Ethnology and aesthetics do not make a happy marriage. The 
ethnologist is not concerned with the artistic significance of the 
objects he examines. He cares nothing for the spirit that pervades 
the statue or the mask he handles; and he remains indifferent to 
the feeling that inspired the work. Even the technique and the 
style employed by the artist are of no interest to him, if they do 
not allow him to ascertain some purely material facts concerning 
the evolution of culture or the degree of civilization attained by 
the craftsman. 

And yet, during the whole period of discovery of Africa 
Tenebrosa, it was the ethnologist, and not the art scholar, who 
was the keeper and often the possessor of the treasures discovered 
by the explorer. Independent research was out of the question. 
The art scholar, unaware of the treasures that had perhaps been 
discarded, was forced to enter the museum of the ethnologist, to 
accepl i he Litter's indoctrination, his classification — - in short, the 
learned nun's opinion. 


Science is not to be blamed for this astounding state of affairs. 
On the contrary, we must be grateful to these scientists who saved 
and preserved from destruction the beautiful relics in which we 
delight, The posittvist and materialistic spirit that pervaded the 
whole European culture of the XlXth century bears the respon- 
sibility for this situation. The general theory of evolution, the 
belief in everlasting progress, had imposed rigid notions concern- 
ing the culture of the so-called primitive peoples. As Carter G. 
Woodson puts it, up to about fifty years ago, the fetish sculptures, 
ritualistic masks and carvings of the Africans were laughed at as 
poor efforts compared with modern art, and the early explorers 
.md travellers in Africa considered these images of persons and 
things as evidence of backwardness. (*) 

Nowadays, the art scholar needs more than ever the help of the 
ri hnologist. And the French critic Jean Laude could state in Cahiers 
d'Art (April 1954) that "an aesthetic study of African art must 
once more be based on the elements gathered by Ethnology." 

It must be recognized that the artistic tendencies dominating 
Europe during the last century share with the scientific authorities 
the responsibility for the neglect of African art. The efforts towards 
naturalistic excellence, the desire to come closer to reality and the 
unceasing fidelity to the Greek canon of art contributed largely 
in estranging the European artist and the art scholar from the 
imaginary world of Negro art, where style and symbol were super- 
imposed in the vision of the craftsmen. 

A consideration of the European invented word fetish, so often 
applied to African statuettes, illustrates this estrangement. 

h'elish comes from the Portuguese fettico, a fabricated object, 
a fake, equivalent to the Latin adjective factitius the French factice, 
l | u - kalian Rltizio. It became popular after the publication of De 
Bmsse's essay Da Culte des Dieux Fetiches (1750) . It corresponds 
to noiliing that exists in Africa. In his Dktionnaice de la Langue 
Francuise, Littre gives the following definition of a fetish: idolv 
f/nhs-.sfV'rv (fit'adori'nt !es Negres (a coarse idol adored by the 
Negroes). Now. we know that an African statuette is not an idol, 
Mi, ii it is seldom coarse, and that the Negroes do not adore it. 

During 1 1 n* XVIIIth oJiHury, I be passion for exoticism and 

the exaltation in literary circles oj primitive life, of the 00*11 sou 
{jagn (the good lavages) led to the collecting oj cutiosties gathered 

from remote lands. It was but poor treasure-trove, a sort of pic- 
turesque bric-a-brac piled up without the slightest discrimination. 
But the collector's approach was pure, not inspired by a mere desire 
for information or classification. He aimed at spiritual enjoyment 
alone. This enjoyment did not spring, as ours does, from the con- 
templation of a beautiful thing; it proceeded rather from the 
activity of the imagination, deeply moved at the aspect of the 
exotic object which acted as a vehicle for flights of fantasy. 

Before what we would call the "ethnological age" had come 
to an end, a certain revival of this taste for exoticism was notice- 
able in many European countries, The big "world-fairs," so 
characteristic of XlXth century aspirations, displayed huge geogra- 
phical models in which African arts and crafts, statues and masks 
found their place. Objects from the Congo were shown for the 
first time at the International Exhibition of Antwerp in 1894; 
others, three years later, at the Exhibition of Brussels. The royal 
castle of Tervuren, eight miles from the Belgian capital, and 
the wonderful park surrounding the castle were given up to the 
Congo Exhibition. Negro villages were built in the park, and the 
products and objects grouped in the building later formed the 
nucleus of the Congo Museum collections. 

The American scholar Robert J. Goldwater, in his fine book 
on Primitivism in Modern Painting i 2 ) has studied the gradual 
development of the more human understanding of the primitive 
people's aesthetic values. The scientist, layman, amateur and artist 
have participated in this evolution, in which explorers and travel- 
lers, colonial, military and civil servants likewise played their 
parts. At the turn of the century, there was considerable change 
in the ideas of both learned and ignorant alike on the subject of 
the "Negro fetish." 

Suddenly, this evolution was followed by an outburst of en- 
thusiasm, that, in reality, could almost be called a revolution in 
the appreciation of plastic art. This was in 1905. The artisans of 
this unexpected discovery of African "things of beauty" were a 
few young painters living in Paris, and some of their friends — ■ 
poets and critics. 

Today, as James Johnson Sweeney put it, African Negro art 
no longer represents the mere untutored fumblings of the savage. 
Nor. on the other hand, do its picturesque or exotic characteristics 
blind us any longer to its essential plastic seriousness, moving 


dramatic qualities, eminent craftsmanship and sensibility to ma- 
terial, as well as to the relationship of material with form and 
expression. ( 3 ) , 

it was very much in the spirit of negation so characteristic of 
our days, to state that African art had no impact on Western 
civilization for the simple reason that it did not exist, and that 
both artists and critics mistook their own psychic and sentimental 
representation of Negro objects for a non-existent African Negro 
Art. On strictly pragmatic ground, this is pure nonsense. During 
the past forty years, Negro art has brought about one of the most 
fruitful and representative artistic trends of our age. ( 4 ) 

* * * 

African history is little known; it lacks the continuity and 
I be synchronism that enable us to get the full perspective that we 
possess of so many ancient civilizations, e,g. the Chinese, the 
Hy /amine and the Inca. But every Mediterranean civilization, at 
.1 certain epoch, has endeavored to solve the African mystery. The 
history of the Nasamonian youths, related by Herodotus (11,32) 
assumes a symbolic significance. This is how Rawlinson trans- 
tates it: "Some wild young men, the sons of certain chiefs., when 
they came to man's estate, indulged in all manner of extravagancies 
.iikI, among other things, drew lots for five of their number to 
go and explore the desert places of Lybia and try if they could 
nol penetrate further than any had done previously . . ." The 
Nasamonian youths, after crossing deserts and swamps for days 
.md days, "were seized by some dwarfish men who led them across 
rxiensive marshes, until they finally came to a town, where all 
men wax black-complcxioned, A great river flowed by the town, 
running from West to East . . ." 

Whether die river flowing from West to East was the Niger 
cannol be historically proved, although it seems very probable. 

In (hr Vlth century B.C., the Carthaginian fleet, commanded 
by lianno, swepl along the African coast, probably as far as the ol I 'iTiundn I *o, 

< hatie8 de la Roneiete in bis splendid Decouverte de t'Afeiqus 
ou Moym Agn tells ai bow the Brii information on the greai 
African empirei came down t" iiimngb iiu- works oi &rabi< 


Ghana, Manding, Songhai, Mossi and Afno developed con- 
siderable power in the Nigerian and Sudanese areas; some of them 
established dynasties that lasted for many centuries. These African 
empires can be located on the planispheres and portulans designed 
by the Jews of Majorca in the Xlllth and XlVth centuries. These 
cartographers never lost contact with the Jewish communities of 
Southern Morocco, of the Saharian oasis and the Sudan. Their 
works, unlike those of the Arabic writers, were not of political or 
religious inspiration: they were maps and guide-books for the use 
of caravans and merchants. ( 6 ) JafFuda and Abraham Cresques 
(d. 1 387) were among the most famous Majorcan cartographers. 
The latter was given by the Infante of Aragon the title of Magister 
Mappamundarum et Buxolarum, or master of maps and compasses, 
Later, another member of the Cresques family was baptized and 
assumed the name of Gabriel Vallsecha. In 1439, he designed the 
famous planisphere that came into the possession of Amerigo 
Vespucci, and which now belongs to the Institute of Catalan 
Studies in Barcelona. ( 7 ) 

■|; :j; % 

The trend of discoveries that led to the new world and to 
the reconnoitering of the African coasts started from Portugal. 
The impulse was given by the princes of the Aviz dynasty, above 
all by the Infante Dom Enrique, surnamed the Navigator. 

During the whole of the XVth century, year after year, the 
world unfolded its mysteries in the wake of Portuguese vessels. 

Madeira was discovered in 1419, the Azores in 1 432, Cape 
Bojador in 1434, Senegambia and Cape Vsrde in 1445; the coast 
of Guinea and the isles of St. Thomas and Principe were first 
sighted in 1470, 

Spaniards and Flemings vied with the Portuguese in the pur- 
suit of new lands. From 1466, a numerous Flemish colony was 
established in the Azores. ( s ) 

In 1479 a citizen of Tournai (HainauO , Eustache de la Fosse, 
embarked in Cadiz on the Spanish caravella Mondadina, The 
Spanish kings were at war with Portugal. Et la nuict des Roys, 
void quatre navires portugaloises quy vindrent descharger leur 
attiUetie sue moy, pur telle Fachon quite nous subjuguerent . . . 
ie tits mi& vn la navitv d'ung nommi DIOGO CAN. guy esioit un 


hien tebelle fars ("and on Twelfth Night 1480," writes Eustache 
do ia Fosse, "four Portuguese ships bombarded my ship and we 
were forced to surrender. I was taken on board the ship of a cer- 
tain Diogo Can, who was a ribald scamp.") ( 9 ) 

Two years later, the same "ribald scamp," Diogo Can, dis- 
covered the mouth of the Congo and sailed up the river 1 10 miles. 
The following inscription engraved on the cliffs in Vivi (Belgian 
Congo), was discovered in 1911: Aqut chegaram os navies do 
Esclarecido Rey Dom Joao o secundo de Portugal (here were the 
ships of the illustrious king of Portugal John IT). At the mouth 
oi the Zaire or Rio Poderoso, as the river was named in those 
days, Can planted the Padrao, a stone pillar surmounted by a 
I toss, C 10 ) 

The evangelization of the Congo began, and the discovery 
was publicized through the learned world of Europe, A map, 
drawn between 1488 and 1492 and, according to La Ronciere, in- 
spired by Christopher Columbus, indicates the fact that the cur- 
reftl of the Rio Poderoso is so powerful as to sweeten the waters 
id the ocean for about five leagues from the shore. ( n ) (Ejus 
magnitudtne at que impetu dulcorare dicitur opposilum ware quin- 
t/ui- feucis.) 

For the following two centuries, the realm of the Congo and 
its Christian rulers were a constant appeal to the religious zeal 
.mil prosclytism of European Catholics. In 1508, Enrique, son of 
Alfonso, king of the Congo, was sent to Lisbon to study theology. 
In I 520 he was consecrated Bishop of Utica by Pope Leo X, the 
liiM Negro to wear the mitre. The Holy See received ambassadors 
from and sent legates to the Congo. 

I Ascribing ihe navigation of Vasco de Gama along the African 
shores, Camoens naturally alludes to the Christian kingdom: 

All! o mui grande Ret no esta do Congo 

(Lusiades V.I 3) 
(The greatest realm on these shores is that 
ol [he C 'ongo. } 

] he boundaries Of this kingdom included only a small pari of 

the present provinceoi I eopoldville, in the modern Belgian Congo, 
i i,, capital oi the ancieni realm* s ' ln Salvador, and most of iis 
territory, are today a pan ol Portuguese Angola. 

* + i 

It is a Portuguese monk. Fra Duarte Lopez, who is our in- 
formant concerning this realm of the Congo. In the year 1578, he 
travelled in Africa. A few years later in Rome, he met the Venetian 
patrician Filippo Pigafetta, to whom he recounted the story of 
his travels This Pigafetta, who was in all probability a descendant 
ol the famous companion of Magellan, Antonio Pigafetta, had 
taken part in the siege of Paris in 1561, the account of which he 
published thirty years later. He also was present at the naval 
battle of Lepanto, 1 5 7 1 . In Rome. 1 5 9 1 , he published the book of 
I opez' travels under the title of Relatione del Reame del Congo 
et deile citconvkim comrade tratta datli sctttti et ragtonamenn 
diOdoardo Lopez Portoghese ( "description of the kingdom of the 
Congo and the neighboring countries, from the writings of Odoardo 
Lopez, a Portuguese.") The book was widely read. French, En- 
gHsh, Dutch, German and Latin translations were soon printed. A 
spirit of religious zeal pervades the whole work. In it, Lopez relates 
(he conversion of the ruler of the Congo realm, in 1491, and the 
forums reign of Affonso. his successor ( + 1541), the true cham- 
pion of the Christian faith. There are relatively few descriptions 
of people and places. However, in a few pages, Lopez tells us how 
the king gathered together in the capital — the name of winch 
had been changed to San Salvador — numbers of hideous images 
of the false gods, which were burnt on a pyre. Pigafetta writes that 
the "native's belief had been founded on the idea that the more 
awesome a god was, the more he was to be venerated." 

It is sad to think that Lopez was present at the destruction 
of these statues without having the thought to describe them. But 
all the same, we owe him a great debt of gratitude for having 
discovered and described the Cataracts of the lower Congo, 292 
years before Stanley. Moreover, the lakes of Equatorial Africa from 
which the Nile springs are clearly indicated on the maps which 
illusir.u, his book. If the XlXth century research scientists had 
uhm.,1 al Pigafetta's book, they would have avoided the many 
fal M i, v heses on this subject which have provoked endless 

fa pigafetta's book, the word Congo designates a realm situ- 
,„,,] ,,„ ,'he lower bank of the river, which he calls by the name 
Ol Zaire tl is perhaps owing to his hook, so widely read m his 
, ,h,u (br word Congo, laler applied to the river, has come 

down 1 1 1 us- 

Although Pigafetta most probably overrated the importance 
of the evangelization of the Congo realm, it is a historical fact 
that during the reign of Dom Sebastian, the last king of the house 
of Aviz, a Christian king of the Congo went to Lisbon and was 
most solemnly received by the Portuguese monarch; This fact made 
a deep impression on the popular imagination. It became legendary 
and, much later, may have been the origin of the strange pageants 
called the Congadas, that took place once a year in several Brazilian 
cities, in the XVIIIth century. 

During Carnival time, a "royal" procession of African slaves 
paraded through the narrow streets of old Rio de Janeiro. A King 
of the Congo, his consort, and heir-apparent (the Makoko) were 
elected, and in gorgeous array, crowned with gilt diadems, went 
through the town in fine chariots. They were received by the 
Viceroy and the Bishop in the public square, where they per- 
formed a sort of mystery play. / am the King of the Congo, I love 
to dance — / am here, I come from Portugal; thus sang the king 
for a day, jigging up and down, followed by his wife and son. 
Suddenly, a Cabocle (half-breed Indian) approached the Mak- 
oko and clubbed him on the head. The young African was felled 
to the ground and lay as if dead. Sounds of lamentations resounded 
in the air. The entire royal procession improvised a threnody, 
mourning the prince and praising his virtues. Then the sorcerers 
of each tribe appeared on the scene, garbed in their ritual ap- 
parel. The colored people of Brazil had not forgotten their origin. 
From the banks of the great African rivers, they had brought with 
them their masks, their spears and their matted shields. After 
magic incantations and passes, the Makoko came to himself, 
opened his eyes, sprang up and broke into a wild dance in which 
the king, queen and all the spectators joined. The muffled sound 
of the tom-tom was heard. Songs were replaced by the howling 
of the crowd. Lascivious rhythms carried away the captive people, 
celebrating the resurrection of a flat-nosed, dark-skinned Adonis. 
The slaves went on dancing the whole nigh^ through, forgetful of 
their endless sufferings. ( I3 ) 


In 1687, a folio volume of exhustive information on "the 
three realms of the Congo, Matamba and Angola" was published m 
hologna. It was the work of a Franciscan friar, Giovanni Antonio 
* lavazzi, who for many years had been the delegate of the Holy 


Sec in the Portuguese possessions of Western Africa, which he 
called Etiopia Inferiore Occidentate. In these abundantly illus- 
trated 900 pages, Cavazzi minutely analyzes the fauna and flora 
of the country, giving a picturesque description of such curiosities 
as the lamentin (il pescedonna, the woman-fish) , the pineapple and 
the yam (batata) . He shows a real understanding of the social and 
political organizations of the Negro realms, and seems very in- 
dignant about the heathen rites, the magic superstitions and the 
worship of idols. His description of music and dances is extremely 
accurate. All the musical instruments mentioned by him are still 
to be found in the Congo. ( l3 ) 

It is interesting to follow in the books of Pigafetta and Cavazzi 
I he historical vicissitudes of the African kingdoms. Pigafetta de- 
scribes in detail the invasion of the Yagas (1568) , identified with 
the present Bayaka tribe. And a great part of Cavazzi's book re- 
lates the political wisdom of Djinga Bandi, the Matamba female 
ruler whom the Italian writer calls "la Regina Ginga." For more 
I ban forty years, Ginga, baptized as Anna de Souza, endeavored to 
play the European invaders one against the other. Spaniards, 
Portuguese and Dutch sought her alliance. 

li was from Angola and the Congo that the New World was 
Co derive its greatest source of slaves, And the expedition of fifteen 
ships privately organized in Rio de Janeiro, in 1647, by Salvador 
Corrcia for the reconquest of Angola., that had been for eight years 
occupied by the Dutch, can be considered as one of the earliest 
political interventions of the New World in the affairs of the old. 

Portuguese domination, founded on the dire necessities of the 
slave trade, persisted in Angola. But the Christian kingdom of 
i he Congo was doomed In the beginning of the XVIIIth century, 
the last Huropean visitors being Recollets, Franciscans from Ath 
(P.elgium), as late as 1712. Then, for one hundred and sixty 
years, oblivion and barbarism fell once more on that part of 
A frka Tenebrosa. 

I niig before the days of colonization by European powers, 
Africa's political structures, alter a period of relative splendor, 
weakened and were practically destroyed. It is true that in Africa 
(he white man found fierce Iocs, such as the Ashanlis, the '/ul us, 
i he lletieoe., Overami oJ IViiin. San lory. Beban/.in of Dahomey, 
l he M.ilnli. eh Many ol I hem weie not the exponents oi 3 Stable 

political ofitflization ( but merely an expression oi spontaneous 


resistance effected in desperate uprisings against the invaders. Over- 
ami or Behanzin, on the other hand, were but the figureheads of 
states in full decadence, the shadows of what they had been several 
centuries before the invasion. 

Eight out of ten objects we admire in African artistic pro- 
duction were created at least a hundred or even two or three hun- 
dred years before European penetration. For some obscure, internal 
cause, Negro art in the XVIIIth century was already falling into 
decline. ( 14 ) 

Great as were the errors of the European colonizers in Africa, 
they must be absolved from one great accusation: that of having 
destroyed the creativeness of the Negro. 

The opinion of this writer is that artistic production decayed 
at the same time as the deep religious feeling that had animated 
the artist disappeared. A more sceptical approach to the animistic 
belief of yore, that inspired the carving of ancestor-statues and 
ritual masks, provided the decadence of plastic arts in Africa. From 
this time on, artistic production was limited to decorative and 
utilitarian purposes. In this sphere it still produces beautiful 
things. And European administration, especially in Belgian and 
French colonial territory, both encourages and stimulates the activi- 
ties of the so-called arts indigenes. 

The decadence of great African art cannot be refuted. It is 
comparable — mutatis mutandis — to the fate of religious art in 
Europe, where for more than two hundred years we have not 
seen an artistic creation inspired by faith that can compare to a 
medieval cathedral or a masterpiece by Giotto, van der Weyden 
or Michelangelo, 

Thus, the decadence of African art had little or nothing to 
do with European penetration, and excellent art critics, such as 
Give Bell, have struck a false chord when they dramatize the 
story of "colonial soldiers, enhancing their prestige by pointing 
out to stay-at-home cousins the relics of a civilization they helped 
to destroy." ( 15 ) 

Let us illustrate this fact by examples borrowed from two 
men who greatly contributed to the discovery and the preserva- 
tion of Negro art. 

In l f M)6," writes f.eo Frobenius, "I visited the Kasai-Sankuru 

I I 

region in the Belgian Congo. In some villages, the mam streets 
were lined on both sides with palm trees. Each hut was adorned 
in a different style, a clever, delightful mingling of wood carving 
and matting. The men carried chiseled weapons in bronze and 
brass. They were clad in multi-colored stuffs of silk and fibre. Each 
object, pipe, spoon or bowl was a work of art. comparable in its 
perfect beauty to the creations of the romanesque period in Europe. 
I have never heard of any Northern people who could rival these 
primitive folk in their dignity, exquisite politeness and grace." ( 16 ) 
Emil Torday, visiting th« same region six or seven years later 
writes: As we came in sight of Misumba, about twenty miles south 
of the lower Sankuru, it seemed to me that I bad entered a new 
world. It was the most un-African place one could imagine. Step- 
ping out of a lovely grove of palm trees we faced a long street 
at least thirty feet wide, as straight as an arrow. It was bordered 
by oblong huts, each standing alone at an equal distance from 
its neighbors; they were all of the same shape and differed only 
in their walls, which were made of matwork ornamented with 
beautiful designs in black. Their conventional patterns varied 
from house to house . . . Though the day was still hot, the 
village was as busy as a hive. Everybody was working, the looms 
of weavers were throbbing, the hammers of smiths clanging: in the 
middle of the street, where was a shed, men were carving, making 
mats or baskets and in front of their houses, women were engaged 
in embroidery. Even the children were bent on some task, some 
working the smith's bellow, others combing the raffia for the 
weavers or making themselves generally useful. The whole place 
was a picture of peaceful activity." ( l7 ) 

At the time Emil Torday visited this village, Belgian admin- 
istration had, for six years past, superseded the Congo Free State. 
And the pastoral way of living, favorable to the preservation of 
popular craftsmanship, had not been disturbed. 

In Africa, as in Europe or the America, industrialization, 
bringing a higher standard of living, may have fatal consequences 
for local traditional art. The radio and the movies may be of still 
greater danger to the survival of the arts indigenes than Were the 
weapons of the white Conquistador. 

During the last years, a serious attempt has been made by 
ecclesiastical authorities in the Congo to dinvl the trends pi the 

arts indigenes towards Christian religioTas atl I be decoration ol 


diversity of Texas 

the churches and the carving of sacred images are now mostly ex- 
ecuted by natives, following their antique patterns. Only members 
of the church can fully appreciate the result of this activity. The 
former Apostolic Delegate in the Congo, Msgr. G. Dellepiane, had 
given his strongest encouragement to this initiative. In June 1936, 
the first exhibition of Congolese religious art was held in 

Full achievement will only be measured after one or tw r o gen- 
erations of artists have shown us what they can do. Meanwhile, 
we can agree with the wishful thinking of a French writer, M. 
Henri Menjaud: "If Negro art is destined to perish with the sup- 
erstition that inspired it and that our civilization is forced to 
destroy, Christian faith can bring it to life again." ( lS ) 


Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. This was 
Moses' commandment to his people, as they fled from the land of 
Egypt, this African land where the worship of graven images 
was rife. 

More than Europe and Asia, even more than the pre-Colum- 
bian Americas, Africa is traditionally a maker of graven images. 
To peoples to whom the art of writing was as yet unknown, 
form was the only means of preserving human thought beyond 
the limit of man's memory. And form became dogma, history, 
tradition. It would be an error however, to imagine that every 
figure in Negro art is a substitute for a written document, 

It has often been said that Negro art was an expression of 
religion. But the relationship between the African worshipper 
and the image is very different from the attitude of the heathen 
in the presence of his visible god, What we commonly call an idol 
has never existed in Africa, What an African statue or mask repre- 
sents is never a god. 

The theogony of most of the Bantu tribes recognizes a sole 
God who ordains the universe. 0) He created the genii, heroic beings 
whose mission it was to model the visible world. This Master of 
(he universe, indifferent to the fate of his own creation, is moved 
neither by prayer nor by offerings, no Negro ever thought of im- 
prisoning his aloof and far-off divinity in any form or image. ( 2 ) 

i lit- gniii, on i Ik* contrary, who unlike the Creator were 

animated by the spirit of evil and good, could be and were pro- 

Closer still to human beings are the dead, whose dynamic 
spirit keeps its personality after death. The living are surrounded 
by the active spirits of the dead, their kindred, their ancestors, 
their chiefs and both the friends and foes of the tribe. The goal 
of ethic life is to .strengthen the bonds of solidarity between the 
living and the dead, ( 3 ) It is thus that the ceremonial which sur- 
rounds entry into the virile age (at which period the rites of cir- 
cumcision are performed) marks the crucial moment when indis- 
soluble ties are established between the coming generation and their 

These rites are still surrounded with the greatest secrecy. The 
urn i, Hal are forbidden to reveal anything concerning the practices, 
and I heir attitude towards all secret ceremonies is akin in spirit 
io thai of Romans and Greeks towards their Mysteries, Is has 
I aki n years of patient investigation to penetrate a part of the 
Negro Mysteries. 

I ho ceremonies of the entry into the virile age differ from 
nm- tribe tO another. But all these rites, as well as the Spirit that 
pervades them, spring more or less from the same source. The 
initiation consists in segregation of the young men from the rest 
oj the community. In the BAKONGO tribe, the period of initia- 
hon, the Longo, takes from two to four months ( 4 ) . In the 
MAl'hNDE tribe, when the time is chosen for the Nkanda (the 
circumcision), the sorcerer, masked and garbed in a special gown 
n| film', enters the village where the children are presented by 
their fathers. The women, informed of the arrival of the officiant, 
bave Heel to the forest, whence they will not return during the 
period of seclusion of the youths. The circumcised boys remain 
in the quarters prepared for them until the wound is completely 
healed, They can eat food prepared by men only. When they leave 
the Mukanda (Mm Nkanda. the house of circumcision), a great 
leas! is held, with dances, songs and music in which the whole 
community (men and women) participates. ( 5 ) 

The Nkanda\s a moral preparation, the young boys 

be'ng taught a code ol ethics and the essentials of jungle etiquette 

(between the .\yy oi' I've and eii'Jil, (he hoys have already received 

preparatory teaching bese aiatters, thai goes on i"i nine 

days) Now, before being circumciied, they cnusi pass through 

I I 

a series or ordeals meant to teach them to fear neither wild beasts 
nor foes, fire, water nor ghosts. ( 6 ) In all these mysterious and 
complicated exercises, the mask plays an essential part. 

After a month of seclusion, when the youths undergo their 
first ordeal, they are obliged to walk through a prepared ditch, 
about ten feet deep, lined on both sides with niches, in which 
they arc confronted with awesome sights: men wearing leopard 
skins and terrifying masks; others, waving red hot irons before 
their eyes. All of a sudden, the candidate stumbles into an unseen 
pool. Three series of such ordeals take place during the Nkanda 

All these ceremonies correspond, according to Maes('), to a 
belief in the incarnation of a spirit, of a vital power in the youth 
at the time of virility. To express this incarnation of a new spirit 
of life, the child is taken away from his family during the period 
of circumcision. He disappears from his natural surroundings. The 
candidate for initiation paints his skin with a thick layer of 
Mpembe, a sort of white clay. Among the BAPENDE, the can- 
didates wear a comb-mask, stuck upside-down in the hair. It is 
made of copper or wood, is semi-transparent and is probably de- 
rived from the masks of other tribes. During the Nkanda, the newly 
circumcised youths reject their childish names, assuming new ones 
on their return to the village. 

In many cases, writes Maes( s ), we have found that the mask 
was but a part of the full dress used during the ceremonies and 
ordeals of the circumcision by the officiant or by the candidates. 

These masks assume most varied aspects according to their 
antiquity or to the tradition of the single tribes. We know, for 
instance, that all specimens adorned with cauries (a tiny shell, 
Cyprea Moneta) are of relatively recent fabrication, the caury, 
that served as a medium of exchange, not having been used in 
regions remote from the coast, such as the Kasal-Sankuru, before 
the second half of the XlXth century. 

Other masks take the form of the stylized head of a jungle 
animal: leopard, buffalo, elephant or gnu (a kind of huge 
antelope) . 

A curious specimen is the mask called Bombo. It was used in 
ancient days by the BAKUBA. It is a huge helmet shaped like a 
human head; the nose is very big, the chin lengthened by an 


appendix representing a beard, the eyes are small — but the most 
characteristic feature of this mask is the enormous, bulging fore- 
head. The ethnologists consider the Bombo as "negrillomorphic," 
that is to say, the stylization of the Negrillo's head. Today 
Pygmies are only to be found in the Equatorial Forest. Two 
hundred years ago, they were still heard of near the West coast. (*) 
The land, writes George Hardy C"), was considered to be the 
inalienable property of its first possessors, the Pygmies. In the 
minds of the Bantu invaders, these aborigines had been changed 
into earthly genii, somewhat comparable to the Germanic Niebcl- 
ungen. Hence the part played by the Bombo mask in the mysteries 
of the initiation. 

With the passing of centuries, the mask has, in certain cases, 
lost its religious character, becoming a military accessory or even 
a dance ornament. In fact, any attempt to classify the African 
masks is vague and delusive. We can catalogue them only accord- 
ing to their local origin. This has been done very accurately by 
Joseph Maes. But a scientific classification of this kind does not 
bring us closer to an aesthetic judgment, or to an artistic 

Why are African masks — especially those carved many cen- 
turies ago in Gabun, the French Ivory Coast and the Belgian 
Congo — so impressive that they provoke in the onlooker an un- 
forgettable emotion? In none of them do we find a desire to 
portray the human being, dead or alive. They are not distorted 
portraits, neither are they pure abstraction. Each of them bears 
a resemblance to a human or animal type, but the likeness is merely 
an allusion, sometimes an illusion. In making a mask, the sculptor 
cannot go very far from the natural size, for the mask is generally 
intended to be worn. ( 12 ) 

As Roger Fry puts it, "there is no doubt that the mask creates 
in us the idea of a human spirit, though one the like of which 
we have never seen." ( lS ) The sense of overwhelming panic that 
pervades us in the presence of these objects has little to do with 
any information that has been banded down to us by the ethnolo- 
gists. What was the aim of the sculptor, with what sort of 
feeling (terror, love, hatred, mourning or contemplation), did 
he accomplish his work: 1 All that we have been told by I ho in- 
vestigations of these learned men concerning ancestor worship, 
propitiation oJ th« dead, rites of Initiation, etc, cannol answi i 


these simple questions. The spirit that animated the primitive 
sculptor has died away without betraying its secret. Neither can 
we imagine the feeling that stirred the mask-bearer (was he him- 
self afraid while trying to frighten his fellowman, or did he con- 
sider himself a religious intercessor, when he assumed a new aspect 
in order to protect and safeguard his people?) Still greater is our 
inability to realize the impression produced on the community 
at the sudden appearance of this terrifying image. 

Primus in orhe Deos fecit timor . . . (STATIUS) 
(Fear was first to create Gods in the world) 

Although the African mask was by no means a fetish, neither 
was it an image of a god; it was born in fear, and in fear it has 
existed for centuries. Fear of the genii, fear of the forces of nature, 
fear of the dead, of wild animals in jungle ambush, and of their 
vengeance after they were killed by the hunter; fear of one's fellow - 
man who kills, rapes and even devours his victims . . . and, above 
all : fear of the unknown, of all that precedes and follows the short 
life of man. This essential terror confronts us — in the same degree 
as it did the primitives — with the fundamental mystery of man- 
kind: what are we, where do we come from and where are we going? 

Some masks ('especially those carved in a later period with 
more or less skill by sceptical craftsmen) , are little more to us 
than picturesque puppets, interesting in their exoticism and strange- 
ness. Many others reflect the metaphysical pangs of the human 
race. Their mysterious shapes, carved by ' 'savages" some two or 
three centuries ago, retain in the eyes of the "civilized" onlooker all 
their transcendental grandeur. Art of the past and present has no 
higher goal than this direct appeal to life's mystery. For this very 
reason, the beauty of the best African masks exists forever, sub 
specie aeternitatis. 

Eine Rxierte Ekslase (the fixation of an ecstasy) — in 1915. 
the German art historian Carl Einstein (who in 1943 chose suicide 
when trapped on the Spanish border by Gestapo agents) , gave 
this perfect definition of the African mask. ( 14 ) The incitement 
towards ectasy through fear, adoration or worship can be con- 
sidered the original cause, not only of the existence of masks, 
but of all Negro art, This opinion, however, is not accepted by 
all. According to Father Aupiais, a learned French missionary, 
three sources of African art can be traced: first, the use of metaphor 
ni thfi Language, which would tend to assimilate the work of art 


U-j a poem; second. .1 desire to record history; and third, the crea- 
11. ,n of Active peisun.iv.>"- I'V means of alteration. 

Assuredly, the desire to record history has played a very great 
part in the creation oi Sculptured objects among the tribes that 
had a settled political Drgantea&Q&* The tattooings that are so 

tiers! among the BantUS arc, in fact, records of their ancestry, 
their station in life and their affiliation with secret societies. These 
1. it tooings are in reality 1 U ii rizatkms of wounds. The design is cut 
into the skin and the Wounds treated so as to raise scarred ridges 
1 1 nive the surface. 

The staves of chiefs carved minutely into designs that sym- 
bolize the chief's genealogy and accomplishments are part of simi- 
lar records. 

The most striking rx.imi >!.-.• , uf these "history books in relief" 
ire the two carved thtone9 oi the BATSHIOKO chiefs now at 
I I'rvuren. Around the mare recent of the two, scenes of pastoral 
and tribal life unfold (hen pageantry: the domestication of the 
mi H alo, the cultivation oi the cassava plant, the ceremonies of the 
. uvumcision and finally t In- arrival of the white people in the jungle. 

Historical recording may have been a source of inspiration to 
the native artist, but it is less frequently met with than the ritual 
and religious inspiration. I he poetical metaphor is but a form 
mI these ritual practices. What we have said concerning the masks 
justifies the spirit of alteration noted by Father Aupiais, but does 
not necessarily imply the creation of fictive personages. We are 
mure inclined to agree with the opinion of the late Paul Guillaume, 
who, as a pioneer among art dealers, was the first to draw our at- 
tention to the beauty of African art. He wrote: "the partly 
hitman face may well be the bridge which leads the observer 
Irom his every-day attitude to the awed contemplation of the 
supernatural." ( lS ) 

* # * 

The art of the sculptor has been and still is of an extreme im- 
portance among the two ethnic groups, BAKUBA and BALUBA, 
whose artistic production has the greatest significance. Joseph 
Maes relates that the privilege of being a sculptor is not given to 
all. In the Katanga, only members of the aristocracy have the right 
to carve the objects and insignia of dignity. They alone may wear 
on their shoulder the ornamental hatchet, the emblem of their 
high station in life. The KAI UhA sculptor must go ibfOUigb a 

I 8 

long and difficult apprenticeship in the school of a reputed master 
ere he can attain his goal. To be admitted to this school, the 
candidate must show a serious disposition for carving and prove 
a particular skill, ( I6 ) 

According to Father Colle, each BALUBA village of five 
hundred inhabitants possesses at least one or two sculptors who 
carve wood and ivory. The art tradition of the BALUBA is similar 
to that practiced by BAKETE and BENA LULUA sculptors. 

Even now, among the BAPENDE, mask sculptors are kept 
very busy in producing the dance masks of their tribe. ( 1S ) The 
present writer saw the sculptor Kalunga at work, in the village 
of Munga, near Kilembe (Kwango) . He was helped by six assist- 
ants and the entrance of the small garden which he used as a 
studio was strictly prohibited to women. In another village of 
the same region, an elderly ivory carver named Kabamba devoted 
himself exclusively to the making of tiny amulets that are worn 
suspended on a string round the neck. 

It would be an error to imagine these sculptors working in the 
fashion of European or American artists. They belong to a 
culture where things can be superlatively beautiful and utilitarian 
at the same time. ( 19 ) Every utensil is material for decoration: ( 2(1 ) 
cups and goblets carved in the shape of human heads or orna- 
mented with geometrical patterns; chief-staves and chairs adorned 
with historical scenes; headrests and stools supported by sculptured 
figures: make-up boxes and spoons, bobbins: musical instruments, 
drums and tom-toms that were used in the jungle to transmit news 
from village to village by a process very similar to the Morse code. 

These are some of the objects made by the Negro artisans. Be- 
sides these, there are amulets and talismans chiseled in wood or 
ivory, and minor objects used in magic practices; some of these, 
employed by the witch doctor to detect the seat of a disease, are 
shaped like animals and skillfully carved. Perhaps we should also 
consider the so-called "nailed-fetishes." They are found in the 
region of the lower Congo. But they are generally of a very poor 
quality and from a purely aesthetic point of view have little 

The reader might ask how we can reconcile the existence of 
such objects with the statement that "what we commonly call a 
Irtish does not exist in Africa." The answer is very simple: these 
things are either medical instruments or else have some other im- 


m< .lute practical function (protection of the crops, removal of 
II influence, etc.). Even the "nailed-fetish" is not considered 
i i god nor worshipped at such. 

* * * 

Negro art has not been produced in the same abundance in all 
m.s of the Belgian Congo. It was largely the tribes in the 
I hern and western parts of the country who created the beauti- 
i <• I works that have come down to us. 

In Ins outstanding work, PLastiek van Kongo (Antwerp 1 946) , 

I M. Olbrechts has named four different artistic regions: Lower 

n Bakuba, Baluba, and the northern part of Belgian Congo 
divided in Northwest and Northeast regions. This classification 
ippi 1 1 s lo be logical, and we shall quote Mr. Gold water's remark 

,i ttinual movements of peoples make the determination of 

lienees and origins difficult as does the uncertainty of proven- 
■ .I objects." ( 21 ) 

I ilory is capricious towards nations as well as towards indivi- 
. I Among the diverse cultures that blossomed through the ages 
,., | Africa, the BUSHONGO culture alone has had the 
mil ilege i'l keeping its own records and transmitting them almost 
Hi io modern research. 

I ,1, oral tradition and chance played a part in the rescue 
,,| ih, , records. For many centuries, a high dignitary of the 
|\| ,| |( >NCiO court, the Moaridi, has been an official historian, a 
i | lid til living handbook, who preserved in his prodigious memory 
1 1„ Li i ■ ' i \ of the hundred and twenty Nyimis. the political and 

i , i | ehiofs of the nation. But all the skill of the Moaridis and 

||] || L |l ciple.s was not enough to bring us the account of their 
i , i .i | i hance, in this case, was incarnated in a man. Emil 
I i,i ,\ i I :■; ■"> 1031), a Hungarian ethnologist who spent several 

,, n, i he ivgion of the Sankuru-Kasai basin, won the friend- 
i,,,, o| thi natives, learned their language and discovered the 

in.1,1 larvels of their art. What Garcilaso de la Vega did for 

[hi I id ,i civilization in the XVIth century, Torday renewed in 
ili beginning of the XXth century for the BUSHONGO culture. 
He I mi I been sent to Africa to discover and bring back objects 
nl interest to the British Museum. This he performed with the 
greatest success. Not only did he find the most splendid artistic 
production of Central Africa, but he wrote, in coUa^oi*tiotJ with 
,i British Museum ethnologist, T. A. Joyce, .in exhaustive elhno 


logical study describing the people he had lived with for years. ( 22 ) 
Moreover, Emil Torday left us a charming book, containing his 
personal recollections, recounting the story of his discoveries and 
telling how he persuaded the native king and his council to give 
up some of their most precious sculptures to the British 
Museum. ( 23 ) 

Nowadays, the BUSHONGO are called BAKUBA by the sur- 
rounding tribes. Travellers, tourists and art students generally use 
the same appellation, BAKUBA to describe the peoples living 
along the pattern of BUSHONGO culture., and not only the 
original BUSHONGO clans. 

In Mushenge, the present capital, situated in the Sankuru- 
Kasai region, lives the Nyimi, the sovereign of divine origin, sur- 
rounded by a crowd of officials and ministers whose functions are 
as strictly ritualized as were those of the Byzantine court. One of 
them is the Moaridi, whom we have already mentioned; another 
is the Nyibina, the head of the sculptors of graven images, who 
occupies an exalted position at court. 

The history of the BUSHONGO nation is most fascinating. 
After relating the origin of the world and creation, achieved by 
a unique God, the narrator proceeds to recount the deeds and 
records of his people: The BUSHONGO came from the shores 
of a great sea (probably Lake Tchad) . (a) Before they could settle 
on their present land, they had to cross four large rivers (the 
Ubangui, the Congo, the Bassiri and the Lukenye) . ( 24 ) 

Each reign is described with its characteristic events. Under 
the 98th Nyimi, a total eclipse of the sun is recorded. This enabled 
Torday to fix a landmark in BUSHONGO history. A total eclipse, 
visible in that part of the world, had been recorded by European 
observatories on March 30, 1680. Today's computation of dates 
is entirely based on this event. At 1500 or thereabouts, he fixes the 
reign of Miele. a famous blacksmith who introduced the use of 
iron among his people. Shamba Bolongongo, the 93rd Nyimi 
(circa 1600) is remembered as the greatest and wisest of all the 
BUSHONGO rulers. To acquire wisdom, he wandered among 

( A) The deductions of Torday are no longer admitted by the new generation 
m| iThnuluL'isis. According to them, the BAKUBA kingdom appears to 
have been founded by BAKONGO conquerors that came from the North- 
east, Thev .subdued ethnic elements of disparate origin, whose influence 

«.r deeply felt in cbeii later development. 


,ln n. M'.hhoring tribes for many years, like the young Buddha. 
Ik ii In- assumed power, he introduced several political, social 
n • I moral reforms that have been religiously kept by his suc- 
■I I If reorganized his court, giving an important place to 
h |jii sentatives of the most honored crafts. He taught his sub- 
In ilic weaving of cloth from raffia fibre, He was a peaceful 
• ' ii, ,ind he prohibited the use of the shongo ("the light- 
i i hi' I browing-knife that is still in use among the tribes 
1 'lun^ui and Tchad regions. This throwing-knife had been 
till 1 1 ulii 1011.1I weapon of the BUSHONGO (the men with the 
to l Shamba Bolongongo also instituted the custom of carv- 
»«<lcn image of the ruler. This Solomon of the jungle used 
Kill neither man, woman nor child. Are they not the 

I < hembe (God) , and have they not the right to live? 

| mhIii lil i wise brought to his people some of the agreeable pas- 
1 1 1 1 1 .1 1 li- via te the tediousness of life: the use of tobacco and 

1 1 1 / e!a, a sort of draughts, still very popular in most 

\Ul iii i mini ries. 

i |i|,n .liter having gained the Nyimi's friendship, was ad- 

■ III I In loyal house, where he saw the statues of Shamba and 

I ( >ne of the most recent was the image of Mikope 
1 1 "' In i 1 1. id reigned in the beginning of the XlXth century; 
in I 1(1 i il, lighter of this chief was still alive, a very old woman, 
i l oid.iy how her father had abolished the law that pre- 

■ d I hi 1 , .mil noblemen from marrying slave girls. Mikope 
I'll 1 1,1! I nun ried a slave and at the foot of his statue, a small 

1 1 1 ■ ''['resented the woman he had loved above every- 


ii M> i ') Torday also tells us of the long series of 
In' h look place between the Nyimi and the grandees 
111 1 1 mid make up their minds that the image of their 

■ 1 oil, i would have a more secure and more illustrious abode 

flu R mil Museum than they had in the fragile shelters of 

M ii'iIh line, 

Noi ill the Statues seen by Torday were taken from their 
Ipyitlmnle possessors for the enjoyment of white scholars and 
un.i\ Seven of them belong now to European museums. Three 
n| 1 1 j « - 1 1 1 . including the image of Shamb.i holongtuigo. are in the 
hiilish Museum; three more are in the Museum of the 

Belgian Congo, in Tervuren, and one in the National Museum oi 
I openhagen. Still anothej belongs to die i.muly ni ihe i,ue Mi 

Renkin, first Belgian Minister of Colonies. Ten more are listed by 
Prof. Olbrechts, all of them belonging to Belgian private collectors. 
Seventeen of these eighteen statues were exhibited in Antwerp in 
December 1937 and are reproduced in Pahtiek van Kongo. The 
names of twelve of the BAKUBA rulers represented are known. 
Three or four of the remaining statues represent, according to 
Olbrechts, the same unidentified ruler. ( 26 ) 

Although these statues belong to very different periods, they 
are similar both in attitude and stylization. The BAKUBA rulers 
are seated on their haunches, with the emblem of their reign in 
front of them (anvil, table of the Lela, etc.) ( 27 ) On their bodies 
we see belts of fibre and shoulder, arm and wrist bracelets of 
threaded beads. The disproportion that we find between the upper 
and lower parts of the body, characteristic of Negro statues, is still 
more striking in these exquisite works of art because of their 
very perfection. 

This curious angle of vision, which is so general, can be ex- 
plained by the fact that the artist, when carving his subjects, 
works seated on the ground, and therefore sees the log he is 
carving with that particular aspect which modern painters of our 
time call perspective descendante. These statues, being designed 
to be placed directly on the soil and not on a socle, present them- 
selves in the same manner to the spectator. 

It is generally admitted that the statues of the BUSHONGO 
kings represent the highest peak of Negro art. We find, especially 
in the image of Shamba, harmonious synthesis between style and 
reality, idealization and resemblance, expression and technique. 

These statues are of rather small dimensions. The biggest is 
slightly less than three feet high. However they are not mere por- 
traits; neither are they statuettes of a personal nature like so many 
other Negro works, equivalent to the Roman lares. They are 
veritable monuments, invested with a civil and lay significance. We 
may say that they are official portraits, tending to inspire civic 
feelings in the onlooker and to increase the glory of the rulers. 

For all these reasons, and despite the extraordinary skill of 
the carvers and the material perfection attained, these famous 
statues of the BUSHONGO kings are not the most striking ex- 
amples of Negro art. Their inspiration derives from hero-worship, 
,i feeling we know all too well in European art, and the fact 


.i, ii i -tutors were also courtiers, officially appointed sculptors, 
i. || mil depositories of a tradition handed down through hun- 
i- i id years, invests them with an unavoidable academic 
l hi 

i i || in Negro art? The expression may seem strange. 

. ,i nvsponds to a strange reality. As Torday puts it: 

l i, |UlSll()NCiO form a wedge driven into a solid mass of 
lm liy whatever name they may be called, belong to 

I J, i |,| ly-"(, 28 ) Now, if we compare any production of 

i i I i \ , .i similar creation of the BALUBA or any other 

i id. I .. ;.• :.;r. Congo, we can easily establish, on a purely 
I | hi' 1 1 [rtHiriil, .some essential differences in the spirit that per- 
,i ,i, v.iks. The statues of the BUSHONGO kings repre- 

, i lm vi iiu-nts of a delicate technique. Only a welhestab- 

i, | M i| | it 1 1 in 1 1. Mil ion could produce these masterpieces. The men 

I tln ui were professional artists, in the European sense 

i ,i, r,'| ['his appears also when we examine the other 

i u-s, their decorative production (bowls, carved 

i ii nl.s of magic therapeutics, drums, woven materials) , 

i Uhmbts assigns to a popular BAKUBA style, distinct 

style which inspired the king statues, and also their 

iii i \il i im'.ssionism is banned form BAKUBA art. 

i,iii h. sense of style and decorative art inspired the 
I,,.,,, pattern* iransported from the woven tapestries of raffia 
hi I,, , irved Mil lace of goblets and boxes, These patterns, 

fjti Paul Guiilaume, ( 29 ) highly conventional and geometrical, 
ii, I, mi, I,.! ,|..wri 1 1 iii> ugh the generations and designated by par- 
i ., nl. n iiunr', I'iUNHONGO children are taught at an early age 

I i thi mi with thumb and finger in the sand. Some of them 

ii,.,! shape from animals, others from basketwork, showing 

||) pi v oJ Straw, over and under. Other elements borrowed 

l tin vegetable, animal or astronomical world are also fre- 
quent!} employed by the BAKUBA carvers. The moon and the 

in, the palm leaf, the snake, the antelope, the leopard and the 
. i Hie are represented in a more or less stylized form. 

I be so-called head-cups are another remarkable feature of 
BAKUBA art. Whatever may have been the symbolic significance 
nl these strange wooden goblets in form of a human head, they 
^institute a characteristic achievement of the BAKUBA carvers. 
A great variety of style is to be found in (he rendering "I 1 1 it* 

human face, Sometimes, we are confronted with a mysterious, 
hieratic, almost superhuman expression, while in other examples, 
the features are so vivid and realistic as to suggest that the in- 
tention of the sculptor was to create a real portrait of a given 
human being. 

A detail, often reproduced on drums and goblets, is the human 
hand. Joseph Maes has given an interesting interpretation of this 
symbol. ( 30 ) The BAKUBA warrior, before becoming a member of 
the caste of Yolo, had to show his courage and valor by killing 
an enemy of the tribe. To prove his exploit, he had to present 
to the council of this high military clan the left hand of the doomed 
enemy, which was solemnly burned on a pyre during the ceremony 
of admission. It may be that the carver commemorated this event 
by reproducing the cut-off hand on an object which was awarded 
on this occasion to the new Yolo. 

This emblem of blood and murder is exceptional in the 
decorative art of the BAKUBA. As a matter of fact, all scholars 
agree in praising the peaceful and intimate character of BUSH- 
ONGO art, its natural grace and innate style. Even in their masks, 
the BAKUBA artists strove to avoid the awesome and fearful im- 
pression produced by so many other African masks. We also know 
that their masks were not — ■ or in any case, are no longer — 
exclusively reserved for ritualistic ceremonies. Some are worn by- 
itinerant clowns, some by dancers. Joseph Maes observes that the 
BAKUBA masks have probably lost their ancient meaning — - the 
inevitable consequence of the decadence of ancestral customs. He 
adds that such "decay of masks," such an evolution in the mask's 
role and significance are to be found among the BAKUBA. 
This confirms what BAKUBA art has taught us of its aesthetic 
character, its highly developed sense of decorative splendor and also 
its tepid approach to the things of religion and ancestor worship. 

The Nyimi's prime minister once implored Torday to use his 
influence with the king in persuading him to re-establish the rites 
of initiation. On another occasion, the same dignitary complained 
that the ancient language which was formerly understood and 
spoken by the BUSHONGO aristocracy had fallen into disuse. 
Alluding to the difficult political situation of the Nyimi and his 
government, the prime minister informed Torday that the disaster 
he dreaded was not the collapse of his country , . . but the 

destruction of its spiritual world, which, in his eyes, was the only 
(hing that mattered. ( 32 ) 

This demonstrates that the BAKUBA culture, the most de- 
veloped and refined in Central Africa, was losing its original at- 
tachment to tradition and to faith long before the days of Euro- 
pean penetration. In BAKUBA art, more national than religious, 
more aristocratic than popular, not a free art, but one attached 

nprcscriptible canons, this state of things is accurately mirrored. 

( nmparcd to the artistic production of less politically developed 
fdbvN, I'.AKUBA art appears, for all its splendor, frigid and dis- 

,\h. Alain Locke finds in a BAKUBA head-cup the quality 

ol AUtttvrily and mystic restraint of early Buddhist works. ( 33 ) As 

1 1 i m| fact, the BAKUBA have carefully preserved their won- 

Lthil U'lhnique, and its "academism" is a solid guarantee of the 
in' r il and perhaps even of a possible Renaissance of what has 
! Riled the "BUSHONGO miracle." ( M ) 

I wo events, which have taken place within sixty years of 
each Otfafl illuminate the astounding historical adventure of the 
BUS] l< >N< i( ) kingdom, 

I i ii i h y. aftei explaining how the Nyimi generally chooses his 

successm ,u )■ i hr sons of his sisters (matrilinear succession). 

tells us thftl M lOOn as the king had passed away, the government 
was, for I he lime being, in the hands of the late king's oldest son, 
who acted 81 ( ametlenga, One of his principal duties was to 
guard the treasures, and another to choose the victims to be 
immolated on hr, 1 .11 Hit's grave. Then followed a reign of terror, 
a hunt for who were to die. This lasted during the three 
days the body remained exposed. When old Bope Mobinji (in 
whose time, in ltf<H4, Dt, Wolf came to the country's frontier) 
died, his son had two thousand people killed in his honor with 
out counting the wives and slaves buried with him . . . very prob- 
ably an exaggeration. (®) 

In his beautiful book, Congo, published in New York in 1945. 
with fine photos by Andre Cauvin, the young American poet John 
Latouche, whose untimely death was deeply lamented by his many 
friends in U. S. A., Belgium and the Congo, has given us an 
interesting report of the incumbent Nyimi's activity. The present 
king owns many antique statues, masks, and cloths, which have 
been partially destroyed by the native habit of storing those objects 
in huts, where they are at the mercy of termites, mold and weather. 

Encouraged by the government, the king, after years of persuasion, 
was erecting a large brick museum in which to house his treasures. 
He was also instructed in the art of preventing natural hazards from 
still further impairing relics of such value. ( 3& ) 

The present writer visited Mushenge in February, 1951. The 
museum is a brick construction, the only one to be found in the 
Nyimi's capital. There, on three large display tables are shown 
ancient cups with geometrical patterns and carved boxes (those in 
the shape of a half -moon are particularly beautiful) . No BAKUBA 
statue is to be seen in the museum, although the Nyimi still pos- 
sesses several ancient sculptures, not exposed to the public. Along 
the walls, a series of BAKUBA masks are displayed, together with 
high carved drums. This museum, furnished and controlled by the 
natives themselves, is the first of its kind ever built in Africa, 

=t= % * 

The BALUBA constitute an important ethnic group whose 
separate tribes are to be found in vast regions in the South of the 
Belgian Congo, from the Kasai-Sankuru valleys up to the shores 
of Lake Tanganyika (the Urua or Warua being but a geographical 
denomination of diverse tribes under BALUBA influence, as those 
which Mr. Verhulpen, in his work on BALUBA culture, calls 
Baluba'ises) . The history of this culture is little known, although 
the artistic production of the BALUBA is one of the most import- 
ant of the African continent. But little by little, the material facts 
of BALUBA history are revealed to the patient investigators. Mr. 
Verhulpen ( 37 ) recounts the successive rise and decline of two 
BALUBA empires, the first founded in the region of the Lomami 
by Kongolo, a conqueror of BASONGE origin who, after extend- 
ing and increasing his possessions, had the miserable ending that 
befalls black as well as white conquerors. This took place in the 
beginning of the XVIth century. 

The dynasty of Mbili Kilube (Kongolo's father) continued 
to reign over the second BALUBA empire, which extended its 
frontiers from the Tanganyika and Moero lakes to the upper course 
of the Lualaba (Congo) and the Lomami. 

His patient researches, pursued in the encampments where he 
lead the elders to speak of their ancestors, permitted Verhulpen 
to establish a chonological list of the BALUBA rulers. He also 
made comparative lists of the chiefs of the BALUBA dvnasty with 


the dynasty of the Christian kings of the Congo, (A) and with the 
much talked of and little known dynasties of the LUNDA king- 
doms, that is to say, little known to English, French or German 
speaking peoples, but not strangers to the Portuguese. These in- 
trepid pioneers have never ceased their penetration of the unknown 
continent, from their Angola bases on the African coast, striving 
to connect their Indian Ocean possessions with those on the 

Both explorers and merchants proceeded symmetrically — one 
could say — to the famous Bandeirantes, the Brazilian pioneers 
who, from Santos and Sao Paulo penetrated the tropical jungle, 
the settao, 

Lacerda, the Pombeiras or native-traffickers (1806-1811), 
Monteiro and Gamitto, Silva Porto, Serpa Pinto, Henrique 
Dias cle Carvalho, between 1 798 and 1 885, organized sev- 
eral expeditions all of which crossed through the LUNDA, 
kingdoms. In the description they give of the court of the Cazembe, 
the ruler of a kingdom which was to a certain extent a vassal of 
the LUNDA empire, Monteiro and Gamitto relate that they were 
received, in November 1831, by the Cazembe, seated on a throne 
placed between two parallel rows of half-length figures of human 
beings with horned heads. Another smaller image was placed in a 
wicker basket at the chief's feet( 38 ) 

But the real seat of the LUNDA state was the residence of 
the Muata-YqnvQ, whose dynasty, allied to the BALUBA rulers, 
began to expand in the beginning of the XVIIth century (the 
first Muata-Yanvo being a contempory of Shamba Bolongongo, 
the wise BUSHONGO sovereign) . 

In Mr, Verhulpen's learned work, we see coordinated for the 
first time the scattered historical developments of Central African 
nations, Thus, year after year, the clouds are lifted, and we have a 
glimpse of the Africa Tenebrosa of yore. 

It is highly regrettable, however, that Mr. Verbulpen, who 
describes so minutely the memories and customs of the BALUBA. 
has omitted any mention of visible objects. ( M ) And yet what a 

(A) He gives us a list of about thirty successive monarchs bearing Portuguese 
names such as Joao, Alvaro or Antonio, that reigned in San Salvadol Eroru 
1491 to 1710. The beginnings of this epoch (M'M -1541) have been 

Mudicil inli'iisi vrlv in Msj-r. ( '.uvi'lit-r's cxcclli'iil book, / ' \lh It'll HoytttttlM 

de Congo, Brmsela 19 i *> 

profusion of these objects there were! Statues and masks, carved 
implements and goblets and the famous stools supported by human 
figures! These works do not attain the material perfection that 
enchants us in BAKUBA art. The BALUBA craft is more rudi- 
mentary and less ornamental. It has a kind of stylistic soberness, 
a moderation in the decorative details. But when it endeavors to 
represent human beings, it attains a high emotional intensity, a 
powerful and dramatic expression. 

If we wish to make a comparison in terms familiar to every art 
student, we should say that a BALUBA statue is to a BAKUBA 
what a Tuscan fresco of the XlVth century is to a Florentine 
painting of the late quattrocento. 

One of the themes frequently treated by the BALUBA sculptor 
is the so-called mendiante figure, a kneeling woman holding a large 
bowl, as if she were begging for alms. The most famous of the 
many statues of this kind, at the Tervuren Museum, is a touching 
achievement of BALUBA art. The pathetic face of the elderly 
woman is sculpted in plane surfaces and despite the skillfull styliza- 
tion, it shows a deep feeling of humanity. The emaciated limbs 
contribute to the general impression of suffering and despair. The 
tragic figure, has been subject to various interpretations on part of 
ethnologists. It was first considered as the figure of a mourner; 
then it was thought to be a Kabila ka Vilie, a daughter of the spirit, 
a protective image of maternity. We were told that during the last 
days before childbirth, the statute was placed on the threshold, 
the passers-by dropping their obol in the bowl held by the Kabila, 
in token of good wishes for both mother and child. ("' J According 
to Dr, Waldecker, assistant curator of the Musee Leopold II in 
Elisabethville, the mendiante is really an instrument used in divin- 
atory art. The bowl filled with beads and kaolin powder was 
shaken by the faithful and the witchdoctor interpreted the response 
of the oracle, ( 4i j 

In Yorubaland, hundreds of miles away from the country in- 
habited by the BALUBA, similar statues are found, with exactly 
the same artistic characteristics. Such simultaneous representations 
in lands remote from each other, peopled by totally different tribes, 
arc a frequent and mysterious phenomenon of African Negro art. 

Prof. Olorcchts has established that the famous Tervuren 
Its tug (S 001 a unique Specimen of its style and perfection. In 


European museums and private collections, he has identified at 
least nine more plastic works (eight caryatide stools and one 
standing male figure) that bear somatic, technical and aesthetic 
resemblance to the Tervuren Kabila. He has ascribed them, if not 
to a single artist, at least to a particular school or workshop and 
has distinguished them from all other BALUBA production under 
the denomination of LONG-FACE BULI STYLE, after the 
village of Buli on the river Lualaba, where the Tervuren statue 
and one of the caryatide stools were found. All the other specimens 
of the same style, and many more that bear influences of the LONG- 
FACE technique, come from the same Urua or Warua region, be- 
tween the Lualaba (Congo) and. Lake Tanganyika. 

The crouching figure supporting a stool or a head -rest is a 
favorite theme of BALUBA sculpture. The stool is an emblem of 
power, used by the mighty on solemn occasions, Some of these 
stools are conceived along purely decorative lines, and bear no figur- 
ative element; an admirable specimen of this type can be seen in the 
Brooklyn Museum. 

The stool supported by one or more human figure is a very 
characteristic feature of BALUBA art. The concept of chastisement, 
the affirmation of might and power, were the primitive inspira- 
tions of the subject, psychologically akin to that of the Greek 
Caryatides. A similar intention can be traced in the sculptures of 
Gothic cathedrals, where the figures supporting archways or en- 
tablatures are mostly demons, dragons, grotesque and diabolical 
faces, but never angels or holy creatures. 

In Central African cultures, it is a kingly prerogative to sit on 
a living throne, on the back of a slave. The Nyimi of the BUSFL 
ONGO, in stately ceremonies, still places a foot on the body of a 
prostrate servant. And Cavazzi, in the middle of the XVIIth cen- 
tury, gave us a charming description of the visit that Queen Djinga 
Bandi of Matamba paid to the Portuguese governor of Angola. ( 42 ) 
During the audience, one of the Queen's maids in attendance, squat- 
ting on the floor, le servi di sgabello (served as a stool) to Her 
Majesty. In our opinion, it is more than probable that the BAL- 
UBA stools supported by carved figures of men or women are but 
an artistic elaboration of this symbolical gesture. 

BALUBA art is animated by romantic transport. The masks 
bear visible traces of such a spirit, whirl) we find also in carved 
ivory charms in the form of human face* Wi' ru.iv add thai &1 


though the BALUBA have occasionally created authentic master- 
pieces (such as the famous Tervuren Kabila), their production is 
rarely on such a high level. In the works of recent times, a deca- 
dence is clearly noticeable. On the contrary, BAKUBA art, by 
reason of its classical tendency and its traditional technique, retains 
today, in its most usual applications, the pleasing qualities of an 
ingenuous grace and an innate style. 

The BALUBA are keen agriculturists. Torday also calls them 
the most musical of all Negroes and wonderful story-tellers. Many 
cargoes of BALUBA slaves were brought over to the New World 
and their descendants are innumerable in the United States. ( L M 

The BASONGE tribe that lives in the present Congolese 
province of Luluabourg, and is influenced by the BALUBA culture, 
is renowned for the stylized masks that were called Kifwebe, ac- 
cording to the first scholars who described them. ( 44 ) The black 
painted face of the mask is traced with parallel or rather, with 
concentric lines, which follow the contour of the features. The real 
name of this mask, according to Dr. Waldecker, is Kya Lubilo, and 
it personifies speed: the bearer being supposed to use it as a kind of 
magic carper, or as the Tekamund of the Wagnerian tetralogy. ( 45 ) 

The very finest specimen is to be found in Philadelphia, in the 
Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Its perfect stylization 
of a noble and thoughtful human type calls to mind the best 
achievements of archaic Greece. Here, we are no longer confronted 

Reception of Queen 
Djinga Bandi by the 
Portuguese governor of 
Angola, from an il- 
lustration in Cavazzi's 
Istorica Dcscrizionc dei 
TV*' R«'K<»i d< u l Congo, 
M.ic .iiuli.i rl An^olii, 
Bologna I ''87. 

- nil iln i xpressionistic and deeply emotional aspects of BALUBA 
,ui I In similar KtfQ Lubilo masks, carved by the BALUBA in a 

ip] shape, in spite of their monstrous appearance, less im- 

i and less beautiful. 

I I ii Philadelphia BASONGE mask, pervaded with a sense of 
tnajeitli serenity, bears the traces of a supernatural vision. When 
ii ww, worn, ii must certainly have given the spectator the im- 
pfCdtion "I a grcal spiritual power, materializing suddenly in order 
[0 bring a particular message from the invisible world to the 
throng;! o! I he faithful. 

I he I '.I N A LULU! art is also connected with the BALUBA. 
Bui this tribe, adjoining the BAKUBA, has developed a quaint, 
eclectii sculpture, thai bears many characteristics of baroquism, 
I be BENA I Ul UA are temperamentally very different from the 
BAS( >N< ib. I o the BALUBA they owe a realistic sense of detail, 
and ,i real gifl lor catching the likeness of a human being: they 
owe Jo the BAKUBA their love of ornaments and geometric pat- 
terns. Their statuettes of chiefs with pointed headdress and long 
elaborate beard, of mother and child, with tatooed faces, the 
woman's body and arms covered with tattooings and laden with 
necklaces and bracelets, are among the strangest ever sculptured 
in Africa. 

The BAPENDE, the majority of whom live in the Southern 
part of the province of Leopoldville, between the rivers Kwilu and 
Loange. have produced carved figures less powerful in style and 
expression than those of the BAKUBA and BALUBA. But the 
BAPENDE have been and are up to the present day, among the 
most active mask carvers to be found in Africa. They produce two 
very different types of mask. The carved and painted wooden 
images worn by the dancers of the N'Buya, (an authentic Com- 
media dell'Arte, with its "harlequins," its pulcinellas" and "tar- 
taglias") have generally a mild and smiling expression: triangular 
in shape, with slightly bulging forehead, elongated eyes and eye- 
lids, a small up-turned nose and graceful curved lips. Some of them 
are surmounted by three or four horns, probably a stylization of 
the BAPENDE coiffures. Others have a rectangular chin appendix, 
perhaps the stylization of a beard. A somewhat "macabre" figure 
with distorted mouth and protruding teeth also takes part in (be 
N'Buya dance. All these masks are naluralisl ic, with a touch oj 
humor and c.u inc. ( >u tin contrary, the masks WQXtl during 


the ceremonies of the circumcision are purely abstract. They are in- 
tended to scare the women and the non-initiated and to keep them 
away from the place where the rites are performed. The men who 
wear them are called Mingangi. The masks are made of straw, 
round, and have as sole feature two small cylindrical eyes. In olden 
times, during the period following the initiation, the boys wore 
the so-called comb-masks, that were fixed upside down in their 
hair so as to cover the face. Nowadays, these comb-masks have dis- 
appeared; the boys, returning to the village, have their body 
smeared with the red paste called ntukula; then, they receive the 
small protective amulets delicately carvd in ivory or in the stone of 
a fruit, that are suspended on a string and worn round the neck. 
They are commonly supposed to be tiny models of the N'Buya 
masks. We are inclined to think that they represent the same genii 
or personages figured in the Hfe-size masks. Many of them, more 
specially the ancient specimens, are intensely expressive. However, 
their chief merit lies in their decorative quality. 

The BAKONGO are the direct descendants of the population 
of the famed Realm of the Congo, San Salvador, the capital of 
the Christian kings of the Congo from 1491, still exists as a 
borough in Portuguese Angola. 

Now, the BAKONGO, whose separate tribes are: Western 
Eastern BAKONGO ■ — ■ dwell on the shores of the ocean, the 
mouth of the river, the Mayombe forests and the banks of the 
Congo between Matadi and the Stanley Pool. 

Few traces have been found of their former conversion to Chris- 
tianity, although ruins of churches are still to be seen in San 
Salvador and a few church bells, baptismal founts and crosses have 
come down to us, together with brass crucifixes and statuettes of 
Saint Anthony. At the end of the XlXth century, the returning 
missionaries were aghast to find that images of the Blessed Virgin 
and the Saints had descended to the level of pagan genii and were 
worshipped as such. 

The BAKONGO are still attached to their commemorative 
statues and nailed-fetishes, but nowadays, their average production 
is rather poor and has little artistic value. However, the BAKONGO 
attained a peak of perfection in their ancient naturalistic sculp- 


tures. Their figures of mother and child are extremely moving. A 
meditative and thoughtful feeling emanates from certain statues 
of ancestors, especially those that represent men with chin in hand, 
m the classical attitude of the Muse Clio, or of Michelangelo's 
Pensieroso. The BAMBOMA of the Noqui region (on the border 
of Angola), and the MUSERONGO tribe of the BAKONGO 
are the only ones in the Belgian Congo (and two of the very few 
in Africa) , who practiced stone carving, Their statues in soft 
schist, mostly reproduce — with few variations due to the differ- 
ence of technique — the traditional attitudes and expressions of 
the wooden statues, the latter being generally of recent date, owing 
to the destruction by mold, termites and rains of the more ancient 
ones. These stone statues were known to the ethnologists for 
several centuries; the Pigorini Museum of Ethnology (Rome) has 
four of them that used to belong to the so-called Kitcheriana, a 
collection of curios established in Rome at the very end of the 
XVIIth century by the Jesuit Father Klrcher, The Musee de la Vie 
Indigene in Leopoldville has another one, and splendid specimens 
are reproduced in the works of Kjersmeier 0 s ) and Gaffe (Rene 
Gaffe, La Sculpture au Congo Beige, Brussels, 1945). However, 
when in recent years, Robert Verly brought back about a hundred 
and ten of these statues, mostly found by him in the Omanene or 
cemeteries of chiefs, hidden on the mountain-tops of the region of 
Noqui, his discovery was deemed a very important one. According 
to Mr. Verly, the statues were not funeral monuments, but rather 
Mintadi, i.e. guardian-images that would replace the chief during 
his absence, and were placed later on his tomb or on the grave 
of his successors. 

The BAKONGO statues, carved in wood or sculptured in soft 
stone, are probably the only African works treated in a realistically 
carnal manner. The supernatural qualities and the spirituality that 
strike us in nearly every Negro carving are absent from the BAK- 
ONGO figures. They are definitely earth-bound, some of them 
emphasizing a feeling of human despair and promethean grandeur, 
others the voluptuous complacency of their creators. It is difficult 
to ascertain the reasons for this exception. The fact that these 
people lived on the banks of the gigantic river, and in the vicinity 
of the ocean, may have something to do with it. For centuries, the 
BAKONGO have had contact with many a foreign nation, both 
European and African, They have known men u! clifii-n ni t.u rs 
and creeds, ami have probably developed thai Kind ui oleiiu i id 

ture, together with a certain religious scepticism and a propensity 
for sensuousness, that characterized — on a higher level of civili- 
zation — the sea-born states of Tyre and Sidon in Biblical days, 
or the Chan-Chan and Parakas republics in ancient Peru, or even 
Venice during the later Middle Ages. 

In the province of Leopoldville, we also find the BATEKE, 
whose principal abode is in French Equatorial Africa, in the dis- 
trict of the Moyen Congo. In spite of little technical knowledge, 
the BATEKE' s commemorative figures are often deeply expressive. 

* $ * 

In 1568, according to Pigafetta, the king of the Congo asked 
Portugal's help against the Jaga invaders. As we already know, 
the struggle went on for nearly two hundred years and the realm 
of the Congo was finally overwhelmed. The conquerors settled in 
the country and their descendants are known today as the BAY- 
AKA. For many years they jealously kept up their ancestral cus- 
toms, and were very reluctant to let the white people enter into 
their secrets. However, on May 11,1 927, the Belgian Jesuit Father 
Plancquaert was able to witness the Mukanda (initiation rite). 
He has described the costumes of monkey-skin worn by the masked 
dancers, who also had clusters of small bells tied to their legs. 
Their masks were in the shape of huge funnels upside down, sur- 
mounted by feather pennants, Of the two masked officiants, one 
impersonated a male spirit, the other a female. It was this male 
spirit, the Kakunga, who wore what was probably the largest mask 
to be found in the Congo. It was about three feet high, with 
bloated cheeks and distorted features, rendered more terrifying by 
thick locks of raffia fibre, representing hair and beard. ( 46 ) 

During the parleys with other tribes, the BAYAKA envoys 
held before their eyes a quaint, long-handled wooden mask, with 
a caricatural face, inscribed in a painted circle and adorned with 
a huge turned-up nose. Although it is difficult to find a correct 
interpretation of this strange object, some say it aims to represent 
the beak of the calao bird, shaped by nature in this curious way. 

* * * 

very prolific people scattered throughout the Southern region of 
the Belgian Congo and Portuguese Angola, are mainly hunters 
and warriors. For centuries they were part of the LUNDA empire 
and endured the domination of its ruler, the Muata-Y anvo. who 


was still one of Africa's mighestest potentates when Livingstone 
visited him on April 3rd, 1854. Finally the BATSHIOKO re- 
volted and in 1887 completely destroyed this long established 
power. However, the Muata-Yanvo or Muai-Yanv still has his 
court near Kapanga ( Western Katanga) , in the district of Sandoa, 
and shares his much reduced power with bis sister, the Nambas, 
according to the tradition that confers upon that lady the pre- 
rogatives of a spiritual and religious chief. 

Prof. Olbrechts considers both BATSHIOKO and LUNDA 
wofks as included in the great production of BALUBA art of 
which they constitute a substyle. However, BATSHIOKO sculp-, 
ture especially remains very distinct and recognizable from any 

We have already described the carved thrones of the 
BATSHIOKO chiefs. But these works of a recent period are de- 
cidedly inferior to the ancient statues of this people, unforgettable 
in their violent, snarling, animal-like attitudes. Their claw-like 
hands and feet realistically sculptured, their gigantic headdress 
shaped liked twisted horns, call to mind the double row of statues 
that horrified the Portuguese travellers, Monteiro and Gamitto, 
during their visit to the court of the Cazemhe. in the remote land 
of Lake Moero, where LUNDA influence prevailed, (' ,7 ) 

Even if the statues carved by the BATSHIOKO of today do 
not reflect the artistic value of the past, their decorative art de- 
lights us still: canes, spoons, baskets, and above all the high combs 
with sculptured figures that bear a strange resemblance to the 
Scythian golden objects found in Kertch (Crimea), 

BATSHIOKO masks are characterized by a dramatic, some- 
times fierce expression. Two of the most remarkable masks are 
those called Tshihongo and, the former with its huge 
black head dress shaped as a medieval helmet, the latter surmounted 
by a conical bonnet. The features are blotted out in a diabolical 
blur, and nothing remain but two dilated and erratic eyes. The 
Tshihongo mask is worn by the master of ceremonies during the 
circumcision rites. The Mwan Pwo mask, with the features of a 
young woman, has a milder and more human expression. It is 
worn by men, along with a curiously woven costume that has 
built-in breasts, 

* * * 

As we advance toward the eastern and northern paftfl "I 


the Belgian Congo, we find little interest m the plastic arts among 
the pastoral peoples of these regions. The Hamite tribes in the 
Ruanda-Urundi territories have beautiful songs, dances and music, 
but little or no sculpture. 

The masks of the WAREGA (BALEGA) ( province of Buka- 
vu) would be worthy of a lengthy study. They are used only by 
the members of the Mwami secret society. They are generally carved 
in ivory (elephants were formerly numerous in the region in- 
habited by the BALEGA). An expression of serenity and calm is 
reflected in the impassive features of these masks. The patina of 
the ancient ivory renders these delicate masterpieces, a miracle of 
craftsmanship and material perfection, still more beautiful. How- 
ever, they are totally different from any other mask to be found 
m the Belgian Congo, having nothing in common with the tradi- 
tional creative forms of Bantu Negro cultures, It was contempla- 
tion, and not ecstasy, that inspired their creators. 

In the province of Stanleyville, the MANGBETU are perhaps 
the only tribe of the Congo to manufacture original pottery. Their 
earthenware bowls in the form of heads with the particular high 
coiffure of the tribe, show according to Mr, Kjersmeier, an 
Egyptian-Sudanese influence. ( 4S ) 

To preserve honey, which is an important part of their nour- 
ishment, the MANGBETU make curious boxes out of the bark of 
trees, adorned with graceful, decorative heads, 

"It is not the tribal characteristics of Negro art nor its strange- 
ness that is interesting: it is its plastic qualities," writes James 
Johnson Sweeney. ( 49 ) In these plastic qualities lies the secret of 
all Negro art: "the unfailing ability to conceive of style," as 
Robert Goldwater puts it. It is probable that the impossibility 
of fixing human thoughts in written words has developed these 
astounding gifts for style in plastic expression. But it may be 
also that these very gifts have kept the Negroes from inventing 
a writing of their own. All the aspirations of their soul, all they 
wished to remember from the past and the dead, all they feared 
from the unknown world and from unaccountable events, all this 
is faithfully mirrored in their plastic creation. 

"Negro art is the most purely spiritual art we know of," 
wrote Roger Fry. "It aims at expressing one thing only, the vital 
essence OJ ni.ui. To the Negro, plastic art is not a means of en- 


joying the free exercise of the spirit as we do. For that he turns 
to music and to dance. But he chooses from appearances certain 
almost abstract plastic themes, and builds out of them a con- 
sistent rhythmical system. By means which seem to escape our 
comprehension, the miracle of an intense inner life is achieved." ( so ) 

Negro art may be religious, social or familial in its essence. 
It may be, as Georges Hardy thinks, more realistic and lifelike 
among peoples that dwell in dense and obscure forests, while it 
becomes more rigid, hieratic and motionless in regions of plains 
and savannahs. ( 5I ) It may charm a critic of our days by the ex- 
quisiteness of its quality: "Touch one of these African figures," 
writes Mr. Clive Bell, "and it will remind you of the rarest 
Chinese porcelain." ( 52 ) 

Be that as it may, Negro art is born from the two elementary 
feelings that animate mankind: love and fear. 

It has found a rich emotional source in the love of the de- 
parted, in the ethnical communion which perpetuates the virtues 
of the ancestors and in the bonds of the secret societies that unite 
their members in a self-sacrificing friendship. 

In the fear of the genii that symbolize the forces of nature, 
in the fear of the magic powers that surround the frail existence 
of man, woman and child in the depth of the jungle, Negro art 
has developed into a metaphysical affirmation. It has given to the 
panic-stricken peoples, by purely plastic means, the liberation of 
ecstasy. Love, fear, ecstasy shall never be estranged from the heart 
of man. 


It is generally admitted that the discovery of Negro art and 
its beauty is the find of the Fauve painters in Paris. In fact, 
Maurice de Vlaminck in his boisterous book of memoirs, Toarnant 
Dangereux, tells us that on seeing two negro statues behind the 
counter of a bistro, among the bottles of Picon and Vermouth, he 
bought them. This took place around 1904. Mr. Goldwater, in 
bringing this fact to our attention in his excellent book, Primilivism 
in Modern Painting (1936), perpetuates this anecdote. 

Assuredly, Maurice de Vlaminck, like Andre Detain, Henri 
MatiSSCi and somewhat later, lii\U|ik' and Picasso, WW attracted 


by Negro art. Matisse and Picasso were the first to collect these 
objects, whereas Vlaminck was drawn to these statues by their 
strangeness and curiosity, rather than by their qualities as works 
of art, as Mr. Goldwater recognizes. ( l ) 

At that time, European ethnological museums (particularly 
the Paris Trocadero) , already possessed very fine collections of 
African sculptures, some of them the very best quality. 

During the following years, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, 
the art dealer Paul Guillaume and some early collectors, like M. de 
Golubew, realized more clearly the aesthetic value of Negro 

Those objects found by the Fauves in the most unexpected 
places were, for the greater part, second rate. 

On the other hand, we find few traces of the direct influence 
of Negro sculptures in the Fauve canvases, except perhaps in those 
of Derain. Curiously enough, with the rise of Cubism around 1910. 
we see no evidence of any knowledge of the Cameroun masks and 
statues, in such close unconscious relationship with the researches 
of these artists. ( 2 ) 

Why was it that these young painters attached such importance 
to African art? This interest goes much deeper than the casual 
find of a Parisian coterie. 

It is certain that during the first years of the XXth century, 
the conflict between collectivity and personality, weighed heavily 
on the artist. In this epoch, more than any other, art served as 
a weapon of defense for the artist's individuality. Hence the "de- 
fensive" character of so many works of art of those days: they are 
refuges, shelters for both the creator and his followers. Modern 
art in its entirety has sprung from such a scission of the person- 

The impressionists, despite their continuous struggle against 
the academic taste of the ruling classes, belong decidedly to the 
bourgeoisie, and their greatest masterpieces exalted the sensuous 
pastimes and the lighthearted pleasures of the middle-class (the 
bar of the Folies-Bergece, the picnic on the lawn, the rowers' lunch, 
etc.). With the increasing pressure of collectivity into the artists' 
field, the painters in an effort to preserve their personality, sought 
a refuge in the secret of their own art. Gone were the portrayal 


of suburban mirth and innocent voluptuousness. Gauguin fled to 
virgin islands of the South Seas; the aristocratic Toulouse-Lautrec 
plunged deeply into the underworld: the solitary Odilon Redon 
retired into a dreamland of books and flowers. Cezanne, father of 
our century, in his shining solitude of Provence, opened wide the 
doors of the future, through which were to pass both Fauves and 

The new generation was to go still further, not in its with- 
drawal from society or civilized life, but rather in the shielding of 
its personality. 

Carl Einstein attributes to this psychological process the origin 
of Cubism. ( 3 ) And we can ascribe to the same cause the attraction 
of European artists towards children's drawings, works by a self- 
taught genius ^ch as Henri Rousseau, and lastly towards Negro 
and Oceanian art. 

* * * 

The direct influence of African statues and masks is felt in 
the pictures Picasso painted between the years 1906 and 1909. The 
most famous of these is Les Demoiselles d' Avignon, which hangs 
today in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

It is not our intention to analyze or to explain the character 
of this influence. We leave it to the reader to compare and to 
draw his own conclusions concerning Picasso's Negro period and 
the models that may have been his inspiration. This applies to 
other modern artists who have been subjected to similar influences. 
We find these artists everywhere: among painters and sculptors, in 
Paris and in Germany, in Belgium and in Austria. In the Ecole 
de Paris., Derain, Modigliani, Leger and Rouault are among the 
most striking examples. And again Picasso, in whose stupendous 
developments the features of BALUBA and Ivory Coast masks 
pass like Ariadne's thread. 

In Belgium, the first masks brought from the Congo, in the 
early nineties, greatly impressed the foremost Belgian artist, James 
Ensor. ( 4 ) In his still-Iifes, where masks mingle with shells and 
porcelain, he creates a grotesque synthesis which combines the ele- 
ments of both Flemish carnival and Negro ceremonial masks, 

In the works of the Flemish expressionists Permeke, Frits van 
ilen Ber^hc, Desniel and Tytfjal. many's with Negro 

sculptors may 1 1 seed 


The German group of the Blaue Reitec (Kandinsky. Marc, 
etc.), that flourished in Munich in 1912, felt greatly the influence 
of primitivism of all kinds, including Negro art. But it is the 
Swiss-born Paul Klee who was most inspired by Negro masks and 

The sculptors, of course, were soon to become aware of the 
rich material that was brought to them by Negro an. Lipschitz, 
Henri Laurens, Zadkine and Modigliani. in his rare but splendid 
sculptures, show us that they have understood the lessons of the 
Ivory Coast, Gabun and Congo sculptures. 

What is the precise nature of this influence? This is not easy 
to answer. A determined influence, that is, a tendency to imitate 
this or that type of Negro sculpture, is limited to very few cases: 
Picasso's Negro period (1906-1909), and some of Klee's fantastic 
personages or animals. But besides such direct and evident in- 
fluence, many other traces of Negro craftsmanship can be found, 
more or less assimilated and enshrouded within the technique of 
modern painters and sculptors. 

In the XXth century, Negro art has become a factor that can- 
not be ignored any more than Romanesque sculpture or Byzantine 

We will endeavor to enumerate some of the most striking 
processes that the contempory artists have borrowed from Negro 

1) the treatment of the human face; the simplication of the 
features, reduced to essential lines exaggerating the eyes, 
and uniting eyelids and nose in one curved or broken 
element. (Rouault, Leger, Permeke, Tytgat) . 

2) the construction of the face in which the nose is a volume 
in itself, distinct from the rest of the composition, such 
as we see in a famous Picasso portrait entitled; la femme 
an nez en quart-de-brie. 

3) the adoption of the perspective descendants of which we 
have already spoken in connection with the appearance of 
the human body as in many of Giorgio de'Chirico's seated 

4) the use of purely decorative designs out of which a pow- 
erfully realistic image emerges; this is the technique cur- 


rently employed by Paul Klee; it is directly inspired by 
the Kya Lubilo masks of the BASONGE. 

5) finally, another source of inspiration is found in the tower- 
ing ornate coiffures and headdresses of Negro masks, 
(particularly the BAYAKA. BATSHIOKO and modern 
BAKUBA specimens) : we find a happy interpretation of 
these towering masks in Frits van den Berghe's canvas 
Un beau manage, as well as in many canvases by Wifredo 
Lam and Matta. 

All that precedes is a pure application of technique. Except 
in the case of Klee or Lam, the inner spirit that pervades Negro art 
is absent from the modern paintings we have cited. 

The upheaval that the advent of Surrealism created in the 
art of our time has in reality brought the contemporary artist very 
close to the Negro sculptor of yore. 

The trends of our age aim at the restoration of magic values. 

Disgusted with positivistic and evolutionistic explanations of 
the world that have led to huge social and national catastrophes, 
deceived by a science, a wisdom, an art that were imprisoned by 
the bonds of reason and were thus unable to attain a transcendental 
reality, the artists have sought refuge in the irrational fields of the 
subconscious, the prenatal memories, the world of dreams, the 
survivals of ancestral customs, the automatic and instinctive ac- 
tivity of the spirit. In these same fields the primitive statues and 
masks came to live. This is the cause of the conjunction between 
the modern artists and the aboriginal craftsmen that still dwelt 
a few centuries ago in the Equatorial Forest of Africa. 

We must not forget that the masterpieces of African art be- 
long to the past, However, the techniques acquired through a long 
tradition have not been lost. ( s ) In the field of decorative art, ex- 
quisite and quaint objects are still produced. 

In the words of the Belgian writer Albert Maurice, the ancient 
specimens of African art after losing their magic significance, will 
serve as models to the native artists of generations to come. ( 5 ) 

Whether or not the African peoples will one day find their 
way back to the creative grandeur of their forefathers, is shrouded 
in the mysteries of the future. 

The "burden of the white man" does not consist only in bring- 
ing welfare, education and social tranquillity to those who, sixty 
years ago, were still sacrificing thousands of human victims to the 
spirits of their deceased rulers. 

In the antique soul of the African races, the spiritual wealth 
so deeply ingrained must blossom anew. Then, and then only will 
they retrace their steps towards creative ecstasy. 


By J. M. Jadot 
Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Colonial Studies and 
Chairman of the CO. P. A. M.I. (Commission for the Protection 
of the Native Arts and Crafts.) 

It is not without interest to recall some of the steps which the 
Belgian Government has taken to support Congolese artists and 
craftsmen. The objective of its efforts in this field is to make them 
participate, without prejudice to their own culture, in a world 
civilization, in which the different cultures of mankind will be 

During the last fifty years, the Belgian Government's interest 
in the Congo's plastic arts has not been limited to that of an art 
collector or a museum expert. That is how it was in the days of 
the Congo Free State, from 1885 till 1908. Around 1897, the 
first curator of the Tervuren Congo Museum was more puzzled 
by the strangeness of Negro art objects than ready to admire their 
expressive quality. In fact, he had the audacity to call them 
"magots" (apes). 

His immediate successors began to look at them with the open 
mind and subtle insight of the ethnographer, and later of the 
ethnologist. Today, Belgian interest in Negro art is far more lively 
and active than it was in the days before Belgium took over the 
administration of the Congo in 1908. 

In the first place, our ethnographers and ethnologists, guided 
by the humanistic and social motives of the Mother Country 
which wants "to rule only in order to serve" (P. Ryckmans) , have 
focusecl their studies of the Congolese ethnical past on what still 
has vital and lasting value for the future. This has brought them 
closer to an understanding with art lovers and artists, and so they 
are now indulging less than before in those professional squabbles 
which Mr. Kochnitzky so much deplores. They have recognized 
that Negro art, like everything else in African Negro culture, un- 
avoidably combines economic, social, political, spiritual and, above 
all, religious elements. They have realized that the only reason 
why there is so little to learn from the history of this art, is the 
fact that the primitive Africans had no written language in which 
to record it for future generations. 

But that is not the full story. Around 1921, Belgian writers 
and artists began to take up the defense of Negro art. in a selfless 

and .hi i vi> spirit. 


In January 1935, as a result of an intervention in the Belgian 
Chamber by the late Louis Pierard, the Minister of Colonies cre- 
ated a permanent Commission for the protection of the native arts 
and crafts of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-UrundL Since then 
this Commission has made constant efforts to promote the local 
conservation of the artistic heritage of the Congolese tribes. It 
has supported the establishment of an educational system based on 
respect for the natives' particular temperament and artistic qualities. 
In the same spirit, studios and workshops for native artists have 
been created. Municipal, provincial and local museums have been 
founded. They enable working artists to remain in direct touch 
with the artistic achievements of their ancestors. Finally, sale 
counters have been established which promote the authentic prod- 
ucts of native artists and craftsmen. By introducing a sharp con- 
trol on the quality of the art products offered for sale, these 
counters have done much to insure markets and outlets, which make 
artists feel that their effort pays. 

The first chairman of the Commission was the former Minister 
of Arts and Sciences, Jules Destree, founder of the Belgian Royal 
Academy of French Language and Literature. He was an orator 
and writer, as well as an outstanding art lover and critic. His 
successors were H. Postiaux, Honorary Governor of the Colonies, 
Louis Pierard, journalist, author, art critic and member of the 
Belgian Parliament, and the writer of the present note. 

Under these successive chairmen, the Commission has continued 
to take an interest in the development of every aspect of the ar- 
tistic life of the Congolese peoples. In its advisory capacity it helps 
the authorities, which frequently consult the Commission, and 
in some cases it takes the initiative in proposing steps which it 
believes to be its duty to suggest. It also sponsored numerous public 
events and exhibitions that are likely to advance the interests of 
native artists. Its efforts have contributed to the creation of prizes 
to reward the best among them. In 1950, it published an illustrated 
luxury edition of a book on native arts, as a mark of confidence 
in its rebirth and future development (L'Art negre du Congo Beige, 
200 pages in- 16, with illustrations, Brussels, Copami, 1950). 

This brief survey of the activities of the Commission shows 
that the Belgian attitude towards Congolese Negro art is now 
beyond the stage of a distant relation between ethnologists and 
an lovers. Today this art is seen again in the right perspective, as 

1 5 

a realistic and spiritual product of an original culture. This in 
itself is a heartening result. 

Of course, the Commission's interests and endeavors are not 
limited to the promotion of Negro art, which is studied in this 
volume by Leon Kochnitzky. It has taken a very lively interest 
in the recent discovery of rupestral engravings and mural drawings 
of real value, pointing to the almost spontaneous birth and sudden 
advent of the art of painting. A group of self-trained painters has 
unexpectedly come to the fore, and we have already witnessed the 
first efforts of Belgian artists to support them. The book published 
by the Commission contains an article by Mr. A. Scohy on the 
problems facing Congolese painting today. 

The Commission also takes an interest in native literature. As 
there was no written language, this has been purely oral in the 
past. For centuries it has inspired the African clans, tribes and 
kingdoms. The Commission has supported the first native efforts 
in written literature, which inevitably entail the participation of 
the Congolese in the movement of ideas of the 20th century, in 
which all human beings are brought more closely together by the 
modern means of communication and mass media. 

Without giving up the idea of achieving a harmonious combina- 
tion of their ancestral culture and the Western culture to which 
we have introduced them, the more advanced of the young African 
writers want to recapture the spirit of the former, as a means of 
increasing their self-confidence in their exchanges with us. Also 
in this respect, the Congo Free State and the Belgian Administra- 
tion have done their best to save the Sudanese, Nilotic, Hamitic 
and Bantu arts from oblivion. 

We could*fill a booklet of this size solely with the bibliography 
of the numerous masterpieces of Congolese oral art recorded by 
the Christian missionaries, by ethnographers, linguists, folklore 
specialists, and even by fiction writers, and which were published 
in a large number of papers, reviews, magazines, reports to various 
academies and books. 

Unfortunately, the men who took an interest in the spoken 
literature of Equatorial Africa were not in a position to record 
them in full, with all the shades in tonology of the various dialects, 
whose importance was first pointed out by the Commission in 
1935. In those days the necessary equipment was not available, 
and there were very few specialists in tonology, this unusual branch 
of native linguistic studies, 


Museum. LONDON. The emblem of this reign 
(c. 1800) was the anvil and bellows. This statue 
belongs to the oldest type, inspired by the image 
of Shamba Bolongongo (c. 1620), 

BAKUBA KING MIKOPE MBULA (c. 1820) — Belgian Congo Royal 
Museum TERVUREN-BRUSSELS. The small feminine figure at the foot 
of the statue represents the slave that, contrary to established laws, Mikope 


PESHANGA (c. 1907) — 
National Museum, COPEN- 
HAGEN. The modern carver 
has yielded tn a naturalistic 


BAKUBA HEADCUP — Property of Dr. J. P, Chapin, NEW YORK. Cups 
and goblets in the form of a human head are sometimes executed in a conven- 
tional style which almost excludes any likeness to a living being, as in the speci- 
men shown above, and sometimes in a dramatically realistic way, as illustrated 
by the goblet on the following page (lower right) . 


ItAKUHA CUP, JANUS CUP and HEADCUP — Belgian Congo Royal Museum, 
I I KVUUI'N KRUSSIil S. The BAKUBA decorative patterns have been established 
fO| iii.uiv R«HT.ilioiis. Sume an- v> i rically set in triangle and lozenge mosaics. 

Otberi iuch ai thi haaddraii rspreientsd on thi Janua cup* are an imitation oi 
\it i . ■ ■■. ■ i> 

BOMBO MASK — BAKUBA — Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVUREN- 
BRUSSELS. This mask, with its characteristic bulging forehead, is the stylization 
of Pygmy heads, 

BOMBO MASK — BAKUBA — Newark Museum, NEWARK. N. J. A more 
elaborate and probably more recent version of the Bombo mask. This specimen 
is adorned with white and colored beads, also with cauries. 

BAKUBA MASK — Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVUREN- 
BRUSSELS. The geometrical pattern with triangles of alternate colors and 
the decorative headdress contribute to the paeceful expression of this mask. 

known as THE BEGGAR WOMAN — Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVU- 
REN-BRUSSELS. This fine achie% ■ement of African art is not a unique specimen 
of its style and perfection. At least nine more plastic works that bear technical and 
somatic resemblances to this statue have been identified and grouped under the 
denomination LONG FACE BULL STYLE, named from the village of Buli 
on the river Lualaba (Congo) , where two of them were found. 



- University Museum, PHILADELPHIA, Pa. Another specimen, also deeply 
moving, of the "bcggarwoman" type, 


Museum, TERVUREN-BRUSSELS. This type of caryatide is generally carved in 
an emotional style very akin to modern expressionism. The suggestion has been 
made that it might impersonate a female ancestor of the family, holding the 
throne reserved for the chief. 

Museum, TERVUREN-BRUSSELS. In this specimen, the accent is placed on the 
rich pattern of tattooing, a reminder of the family's aristocracy. 


PHIA, Pa, This mask with its heavy lira I features could have .served as 

inspiration foi the modern paiater Paul Kke, in one oj bfa inmi.,d parcratti 


L .. ■ . _ ' 

seum. PHILADELPHIA, Pa. The BASONGE tribe influenced by BALUBA 
<nli in. enured this highly stylized type of mask. The above specimen suggests 
fading! "I .niiMu gisndeiu thai evuke .mh.HC and even classical (.ireece. 


New York. 

— Collection of C. E. Stillman, 

Museum, TERVUREN- BRUSSELS. The abundance of ornamental detail and the 
fantasy of the tattooing confer a somewhat baroque character on the quaint 
statuettes of this tribe. 

I. ' 

BAPENDE IVORY AMULETS — Upper piece in Coll. C. G. Sdij'.in.m 
OXFORD. Courtesy of Museum of Modern An, New York. Lower pieces in 

Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVURHNIMUJSsm .s. These proieeiive 

■imillets weie Mivjirinled im .1 ItHng Slid WOftl BfOUJtd Chi ritu k . Some ol lliem ,ite 
very gXpfMjlVJ 

IIAPENDE MASK — Kilembe (Kwango) 
- This modern specimen compared to the 
one on the right, shows the persistance of 
traditional craftsmanship in the Kwango re- 

Photo Giraud d'Uccte 
N'BUYA — KiLembe (Kwango), 
May 1951 — (BAPENDE tribe) 


BAPENDE MASK — Belgian Congo Royal 

burned nusk shows in,t> .ibrc expressionism, 

1 1 11 1 .iii ulated di$ti irtion oi 'be fw i ores 
(vol inni fttllni 

Pa. This chin-in-hand attitude, which calls to mind the antique Clio 
and Michelangelo's Pensieroso, is typical of BAKONGO male statuettes. 
The specimen reproduced is a very ancient one. 

BAKONGO KNEELING WOMAN — Royal Museum of Art and History, 
BRUSSE1 S. A spiritualized sensuonsness is expressed in this beautiful statuette, 

o roiiterpJeei of BAKONGO art, 

so-called nail -fetishes (with a hole carved in the navel to receive the magic 
substance) can hardly be called works of an. However, ihis pari icular specimen 
reproduces will] excellent l[\ni.iii\iii|) die [ypii.d fV.tlim-; ol HAKl )Nl i<) 

stai uei tci 

BAKONGO MOTHER AND CHILD — Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TER- 
V UREN-BRUSSELS. The elaborate geometrical pattern of the tattooing, in 
contrast with the naturalistic expression of the features, reveals the various in- 
fluences felt by the BAKONGO, who for several centuries had greater contact 
vviih the outside world than had other Congo tribes. 


KAKUNGA MASK — BAYAKA Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVU 
REN-BRUSSELS. This terrifying mask with bloated cheeks and beard of raffi: 
appears during the Mnkanda (initiation rite) . 

BAKONGO SOFT STONE STATUETTE— Coll. Mullet, Brussels IMp.u. 
Congo Royal Museum, TERVUREN— Such stone specimens are much oldll 
than those carved in wood, although they belong to the same type. They »M 
called MINTADI. or guardian-images, and were discovered in recent years 18 

; iui , lU cm ecerie S of chiefs, on the oorthen. border of the Belgian Congo 



BAKCNGO SOFT STONE STATUETTE (on the left)— Royal Museum 
of Art and History. BRUSSELS— found in the region of NOQUI; a type 
frequently reproduced in different districts of the Lower Congo 
BAKONGO WOODEN STATUETTE (on the right) —Augusts S. Gerard 
Collection, BRUSSELS — found in the region of MAYUMBE; a more recent 
version of the same attitude. (Compaie also the first image on top (left) of 
page 80.) 



Courtesy of Museum of Modern An, New York. This strange mask, with a 
huge turned -up, was used by the BAYAKA during parleys with Otfcei Irilws. 


HEAD OF BATON — BATSHIOKO — University Museum, 
I Mill APH I'll! A, P.i. An emblem of personal power. The 
..nved staves Oi chiefs found in many parts of the Congo 

and Portuguese Angola are Binonj chc rare manifestations of 
hi in Is] ignda I rttllgloji di mi- 

BATSHIOKO CHAIR — Buffalo Museum of Science, BUFFALO, N. Y. 
In this ceremonial chair, the intimate story of a family seems to be related. 
Men, women, children and animals take part in the "carved legend." 

BATSHIOKO CHAIR — Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TER VUREN-BRUS - 
SELS. A carved history book, somewhat in the spirit of a Xllth century 
cathedral porch. The scene on the lowest part of the chair represents the arrival 
of white people in the jungle. 



i ' sm> m 

Belgian Congo Royal Museum, TERVUREN-BRUSSELS. The Kalelwa mask 
plays an important part in initiation rites. Nowadays ,it is also worn by BAT- 
SHIOKO dancers. 


Royal Museum, TERVUREN-BRUSSELS. Even in such house- 
hold objects, the BATSHIOKO remain faithful to their striking 
traditional images of cruelty and violence. 



BATSHIOKO AND I.UNDA STA 11 (liTTliK t',,1 .,1 Musi-urn 

i [SBON Wiih Mini macHngi animal tiki itcltudtii th&u itttutttti i pn 
thd violini i ii < i ited iouIi ol 1 w irrioi 1 1 1 1 h 

BATSHIOKO COMB —Belgian Congo Royal Mu- 
seum, TERVUREN BRUSSELS. The fantastic de- 
ments characteristic of early BATSHIOKO statuettes are 
still recognizable in this purely decorative stylization. 

BATSHIOKO CHAIR — Belgian Congo Royal I III 

seum. TERVUREN - BRUSSELS. This cererfl 1 

chair, with its elaborate human figures, is typical Ol 
BATSHIOKO decorative art. 

(BALEGA) Coll Charles Ration, PARIS. Courtesy of Museum oi Modern An. 
New York, This is nm .1 work from cha Far East, bui .1 WAREGA mask Tha 
Woty hai acquired a dark brown patina thai cenderi ii wry ImjWMiivi 

(HALEGA) — Coll, Louis Carre. PARIS. Courtesy of Museum of Modern 
Arl, New Ynik A rn.isier pieee ol it.ii' The expression of serenity and 

nirvana (bat pervades tha features ia unique among Congolese mask*, 


Belgian Congo Royal Museum. TERVUREN -BRUSSELS. These two 
objects come from different pares of the Congo. The BATEKE statuette 
is a good example of the rather primitive technique of this tribe, 
whereas the MANGBETU box is carved in the graceful and refined 
conception of this ancient people. 



1. Carter G. Woodson. The African Background Outlined, Washington, D .C, 

2. Robert J. Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Painting, New York, 1938, 
p. 425. 

3. James Johnson Sweeney, African Negro Art, New York, 1935, p. 1 1 . 

4. Leon Kochnitzky — Influence de la Plastique Negre sur I'Act Contemporatn, 
in Syntheses, March 1955. 

5. Charles de la Ronciere, La Decouverte de {'Afrique an Moyen-Age, in 
Memoires de la Societe Royate de Giograpfiie d'Egypte, vols. V, VI, XIII, 
Cairo, 1924-1927. 

6. Ibid. I, p. 129. 

7. Ibid I, p. 123, p, 127. 

8. Ibid II, pp. 40-41. 

9. Ibid. II, pp. 63-64. 
10. Ibid II, p. 71. 

1 I. Ibid II, p. 72. 

12. Leon Kochnitzky, L' Art baroque amecicain, special number of La Renais- 
sance, Paris, January 1 936. 

13. Istorica decrizione de'Tre Regni del Congo, Matamba et Angola, situati 
nell' Etiopia inferiore occidental — ■ accuratamente compilata dal p. Ciov. 
Ant. Cavazzi da Montecuccolo, sacerdote capuccino, il quale vi fu prefetto, 
Bologna, 1687, p. 166. 

14. Give Bell, Since Cezanne, London, 1922, p. 120, 

15. Ibid, p. 113. 

16. Leo Frobenius, Kulturgeschichte Afrihas, Zurich, 1933, pp. 14-15. 

17. Emil Torday, On the Trail of the Bushongo, Philadelphia, 1925, p. 80. 

18. Henri Menjaud, Arf indigene et Liturgie, in Le Monde Colonial Illustre 
No. 162, January 1, 1937, 


1. Jose Redinha — Costumes religiosos e feiticistas dos Kiokos de Angola. Ltsboa 
1949, p, 1 1, 

2. Father Placide Tempels, La Philosophie Bantoue, Elisabethville, 1945, 

3. Paul S. Wingert, African Negro Sculpture, a loan exhibition. M. H, De 
Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, 1948, p. 4. 

4. J. van Wing, Nzo Longo oa les rites de la puberte chez Us Bakongo, in 
Cong>o, Revue generate de la Colonie beige, ann. 1, tome 2, ann, 2, tome 1, 

5. Joseph Maes, Aniofc Kifiuebe, Les masques des populations du Congo Beige 
et le materiel des rites de la circoncision, Antwerp, 1924 p. 19. 

6. Torday, op. at., p. 189. 

7. Maes, op. cit., pp. 6 2-63, 

8. Ibid, p. 8. 

9. Torday, op, cit., p. 57. 

10. Georges Hardy, L J Arf animiste des Notrs d' Afrique, Paris 1927, passim. 

11. Maes, op. cit., passim, pp. 8-9. 

12. Paul Guillaume and Thomas Munro, Primitive Negro Sculpture, New York, 
1926. p. 38. 

13. Roger Fry, Last Lectures, New York, 1 939, p. 78 (see chapter on Negro 
Art, passim) . 

14. Carl Einstein, Negerplastik. Munich 1915, p. 26. 

15. Guillaume and Munro, op cit-, p. 50. 

16. Joseph Maes and H. Lavachery, L'Arf Negre a V exposition du Palais des 
Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1930, p. 13. 

17. R. P. Colle, Les Baluba Hemba, Brussels, 1913, passim. 

18. Adr. Vanden Bossche — La Sculpture de masques Bapende, in Brousse, 
I.copoUlville. 1950, No. 1. 

8 ' 

19. Alain Locke, A Collection of Congo Art, in The Arts, vol XI. no 2 New 
York 1927, 

20. Guillaume and Munro, op. cit-, p. 19. 

21. Robert J Goldwater, Prehistoric and Primitive Art, in Syllabus of lectures 
given at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1936. 

22. Emil Torday and T. A. Joyce. Notes cthnographiques sur les peuples 

communement appelh Bakuba, ainsi que sur les peuplades apparentees 

les Bushongo, in Annates du Musee du Congo Beige, serie III, tome 2, 
Brussels, 1910. 

23 . Torday, op. cit. 

24. Ibid ,pp. 161-164. 

25. Ibid, p. 149, 

26. Plans M, Olbrechts — Piastiek van Kongo, Antwerp — Brussels 1946 
pp. 54-55 and p. l.X-XIII. 

27. G-D Perier. Les Art Populates du Congo Beige. Brussels, 1948, pp. 53-54. 

28. Torday, op. cit. p. 166. 

29. Guillaume and Munro, op. cit., p. 3 7. 

30. Maes and Lavachery, op. cit., p. 81. 
3 1 . Maes, op. cit., p. 21. 

32, Torday, op. cit., -pp. 119, 163, 185. 
33 . Locke, op. cit. 

3 4, Joseph-Marie Jadot— Le Miracle Bushongo in Le Qrapf isme et t' expression 
graphtque au Congo Beige, by Jean Leyder — Socici Royale Beige de 
Geographic, Brussels, 195 0. 

35. Torday, op. erf., p, 177. 

3 6. John Latouche, Congo, New York r .1945, p. 41. 

37. Edmond Verhulpen, Baluba et Bdlubqlises du Katanga, Antwerp, 1936. 

3 8. Journey of M. Monteiro and Gamitto, in Lacerda's Journey to Cazembe in 

1798 (translated by R. F. Burton) , London, 1 8 73, p. 254. 
3 9. Verhulpen, op. cit., passim. 

40. Joseph Maes, Les Kabila ou figures mendiates, in Annales du Musee du 
Congo Beige (VI) II, no. 2, 193 8 pp. 65-148. 

41. Burkhart Waldecker, in Guide Provisioire du Musee Leopold II. sons-section 
d'ethnologie culturelle, Elisabethville, 1 950. 

42. Cavazzi, op. cit., p. 605. 

43. Torday, op. cit., p. 40, 

44. Maes, Aniota-Kifwebe, op. cit., p. 3 6, 

45. B. Waldecker, loc. cit. 

46. M. Plancquaert, Les Jaga et les Bayaka, in Institut Royal Colonial Beige, 
Memoives, tome III, fasc. 1. 

47. Monteiro and Gamitto, op, cit.. pp. 253-256. 

48. Carl Kjersmeier, Les Centres de Style de la Sculpture Negre Africaim - - 
vol. Ill: Le Congo Beige, Paris and Copenhagen, 1937, p. 31. 

49. Sweeney, op. cit., p. 21. 

50. Fry, op. cit., p. 76. 

51. Hardy, op. cit., p. 122, 

52. Bell, op. cit., p. 115, 


1. Gold water, op. cit.. p. 76. 

2. Ibid, p. 118. 

3. Carl Einstein, Georges Braque, Paris, 1934, pp. 31, 132. 

4. James Ensnr ct les masques africaim et nstrndais, in Beaux- Acts (Brussels) 
ann. VII, no. 250. 

5. Henri I avachcry / 'art i/cs Noin d'AMffin tt fgn 4HtitJ, in / In \, ,„ 
(Pr&fenee fcfricaiae M 12 J Peru I 95 U P 53 

6. Albert Maurice — Arts Africaim tt Mono's Modern?, WtxmvU, 1952. 


The author would particularly like to thank 
Dr. James P. Chapin. of the American Museum of 
Natural History. New York: M. Frans Olbrechts, 
Director of the Musee Royal du Congo Beige, Ter- 
vurcn: Baron van der Elst, Ambassador in Rome; 
M. He nri Lavacbery. Curator of the Musees Royaux 
d'Art ct d'Histoire. Brussels: and Mr, C. H. \V, 
Hasselriis. of the Danish Information Office, New 
York, for rheir help in rbe documentation of this 
work. He is greatly indebted to Madame Dollie 
Pierre Chareau for her invaluable editorial assistance. 

Transmitted by i be Belgian Government Information Center, 630 
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Belgium, A copy of this material is being filed with ike DepartaiPttl 
isi Justice, where the registration slalemen I of tin? Belgian Foreign 
oilirc available lor inspection, Registration nndci the foreign 
Vgents Registration Vi does imi Indicate approval mi disanprovu] 
n| iIm material l>\ the 1 mini Slolei Govi ptil 

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